Buckle Up: Vermont's Robust August Primary Contests Take Shape | Education | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Buckle Up: Vermont's Robust August Primary Contests Take Shape

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Published May 27, 2022 at 6:42 p.m.
Updated June 1, 2022 at 10:02 a.m.


© AURIELAKI | DREAMSTIME
  • © Aurielaki | Dreamstime

This story was updated on June 2, 2022.

The cast of characters planning to run for state office  began firming up last week as election officials pored over the last-minute deluge of petitions filed by candidates seeking slots on the August 9 primary ballot.

This year's huge number of retirements from public office — federal, statewide and legislative — has turned 2022 into one of the most consequential Vermont election cycles in memory.

The list of qualified candidates won't be finalized until later this week; election officials must confirm who submitted sufficient signatures by last Thursday's deadline. But in broad strokes, the state's big races have become much clearer.

The House Calls

Nothing in the new batch of filings topped last Friday morning's blockbuster news that Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale (D-Chittenden), a top contender for Vermont's lone U.S. House seat, dropped out of the Democratic primary and endorsed her colleague and former rival, Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint (D-Windham). Ram Hinsdale will instead seek to keep a Senate seat.

The surprise development upended the race and gave Balint a huge boost as she squares off against Lt. Gov. Molly Gray of Burlington. Also running in the Democratic primary are political neophyte Sianay Chase Clifford of Essex and physician Louis Meyers of South Burlington. The Republican field includes Ericka Bundy Redic of Burlington and Anya Tynio of Charleston; a third candidate, Liam Madden of Bellows Falls, who is an independent, also filed papers to seek the Republican spot.

Barbara Nolfi filed to represent Progressives; she said she's one of several placeholder candidates on Progressive primary ballots who could drop out if a serious candidate came forward.

In Leahy's Footsteps

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and former U.S. attorney for Vermont Christina Nolan of Burlington, a Republican, remain the most prominent names in the race to replace U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Welch will have Democratic primary competition from Niki Thran of Warren and Isaac Evans-Frantz of Brattleboro, while Nolan faces Gerald Malloy of Weathersfield and Myers Mermel of Manchester in the GOP contest.

Former Vermont Progressive Party chair Martha Abbott of Burlington filed signatures to run on that party's line.

Fifth-Floor Bound?

In the governor's race, incumbent Republican Phil Scott appears to have a couple of primary challengers: landscaping contractor Stephen Bellows of Grand Isle and former Underhill Selectboard member Peter Duval. Duval was removed last year from the selectboard by a 570-23 recall vote.

On the Democratic side, Brenda Siegel has no primary opponent, meaning she'll have the party nod in November. Siegel, a drug reform and housing advocate from Newfane, has criticized Scott's positions on homelessness and drug policy, and her activism helped lead to an extension of the pandemic-era practice of putting homeless Vermonters up in motels. She made unsuccessful bids for governor in 2018 and lieutenant governor in 2020.

Former legislator Susan Hatch Davis of Washington is seeking the Progressive nomination.

Brawling for Gov Lite

The lieutenant gubernatorial race is a vigorous contest. Though the position has little power, it's been a proven launchpad for political careers. Democrats will have several candidates to choose from: former lieutenant governor David Zuckerman of Hinesburg, former Danville representative Kitty Toll, Rep. Charlie Kimbell (D-Woodstock) and newcomer Patricia Preston of Burlington, the head of an international exchange nonprofit.

On the Republican side, Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) will face Gregory Thayer, a former Rutland County GOP chair and conservative who proudly attended the January 6, 2021, rally in Washington, D.C.

Former Enosburg Falls representative Cindy Weed is running for the Progressive nomination.

SOS

There's a lively contest for secretary of state, a race to watch as elections themselves increasingly come under attack. The Democratic nomination remains a three-way contest, with deputy secretary of state Chris Winters of Berlin, Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas (D-Bradford) and Montpelier City Clerk John Odum vying for the job.

Only perennial candidate H. Brooke Paige of Washington, who also filed for three other contests, sought the GOP nomination. If he agreed to step down, the party could nominate somebody in his place for any of those races later this year.

Robert Millar of Winooski filed for the Progressive nomination.

In and Out

In the treasurer's race, Mike Pieciak of Winooski, the former commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, has no opponent in the Democratic primary. Republicans thought they had a strong candidate in newcomer Kevin Divney, a financial analyst from Londonderry who has appeared on Bloomberg TV and CNBC. But Divney dropped out on Tuesday after publicity of his arrest on a driving-under-the-influence charge last month.

Don Schramm, cofounder of Burlington Co-housing, is on the ballot to be the Progressive Party nominee; Paige filed to run for the GOP.

Adds Up to No Primaries

Incumbent Vermont auditor Doug Hoffer of Burlington is unopposed in the Democratic primary for that office. Progressives filed to get Rutland's Marielle Blais on the ballot; Paige filed for the GOP.

Top Prosecutor

Charity Clark of Williston and Rory Thibault of Cabot will face off for the Democratic line for attorney general; Elijah Bergman of Pawlet filed to run as a Prog. And for the GOP? Paige again.

Statehouse Exodus

The number of lawmakers not seeking reelection increased slightly from the 52 that Seven Days confirmed last week.

Also heading for the door are Reps. Rob LaClair (R-Barre), John Palasik (R-Milton) and Curt McCormack (D-Burlington). Meantime, one representative who planned on retiring, John Arrison (D-Weathersfield), decided to run again after all.

Update and corrections: This story was updated on May 28, 2022, to include congressional candidate Liam Madden, and to note that Nolan is the former U.S. attorney for Vermont. Also, a previous version of this story misspelled the name of lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Charlie Kimbell.