Vermont Senate Democrats converged on the picturesque Three Stallion Inn in Randolph Sunday morning to select their 2011 leadership team.
As expected, Sen. John Campbell (pictured standing), a lawyer from Quechee and the longtime majority leader, was unanimously chosen as the next Senate president pro tem, the top job in the Senate. Sen. Bill Carris of Rutland was elected majority leader and Sen. Hinda Miller of Burlington was elected to the number three leadership post — formerly called majority whip, but now referred to as deputy majority leader.
Would-be challenges to Campbell — including one by Sen. Ginny Lyons of Williston — never materialized and Campbell and the rest of the leadership slate sailed to easy victories. Sen. Tim Ashe, a Progressive/Democrat from Burlington, had considered running for deputy majority leader, but stepped aside to support Miller for the job.
Over coffee and crumbcake, the Democrats also welcomed the newly elected members of their caucus: Sally Fox and Philip Baruth of Chittenden County; Anthony Pollina, a Progressive/Democrat from Washington County; and former ambassador Peter Galbraith of Windham County. One Senate Dem — Claire Ayer of Addison County — did not attend.
Also Sunday, Sen. Dick Mazza of Colchester was re-elected to serve on the Committee of Committees, the three-member body that assigns senators to working committees and which also includes the Senate president pro tem and the lieutenant governor. Mazza will have to be confirmed by the whole Senate, but with Democrats holding a 22-to-8 majority, he's all but in.
On Saturday, the House Democrats held their caucus at the Statehouse and re-elected Rep. Shap Smith of Morrisville as Speaker of the House. Rep. Lucy Leriche of Hardwick was elected majority leader and Rep. Willem Jewett of Ripton was elected assistant majority leader. Click here to read VtDigger's report of Saturday's meeting, which included a visit from Democratic Governor-elect Peter Shumlin.
Shumlin, who was Senate president pro tem for four years before being elected governor, did not attend Sunday's gathering. Campbell joked that "his security detail wouldn't let him," but provided no actual explanation as to why Shumlin didn't show.
In his speech to colleagues, Campbell sought to assert his independence from Shumlin — Campbell has been the governor-elect's lieutenant for the past four years. Campbell said some have suggested Shumlin will be "running the Senate out of the fifth floor," meaning the governor's office, but Campbell told colleagues that would not happen. Campbell told Democrats he would keep his door open and rely heavily on input from the group.
His job, as Campbell sees it, is to "bring people together."
"There's really a leadership vaccuum," he said. "We've lost a lot of senior senators who had a lot of experience."
The only question for Campbell before his election came from Lyons (pictured), who asked whether he considered the Vermont Yankee issue settled or whether he'd consider revisiting last year's vote to shutter the aging nuclear power plant in 2012.
"As far as I'm concerned, we made our statement," Campbell replied. "It's done."
Senate Democrats went into executive session to discuss hiring a secretary of the Senate to replace David Gibson, who passed away this year. After closed-door discussions, they voted to hire former GOP senator John Bloomer for the job on a temporary basis — a move that will also require formal action by the full Senate when it convenes in January.