Q&A: Democratic Candidates for Secretary of State | Primary Voter Guide | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Q&A: Democratic Candidates for Secretary of State

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Published June 29, 2022 at 9:59 a.m.
Updated July 1, 2022 at 5:41 p.m.


Sarah Copeland Hanzas, John Odum, Chris Winters - COURTESY PHOTOS
  • Courtesy Photos
  • Sarah Copeland Hanzas, John Odum, Chris Winters

The Secretary of State's Office manages trademarks, professional licensing and regulation of business services including data brokers, telemarketers and amusement ride operators. It's also responsible for overseeing Vermont elections. Its elections division maintains a database of lobbyists and one for campaign finance disclosures, and it works with local Boards of Civil Authority to ensure that the checklist of registered voters is accurate.

The current secretary of state, Democrat Jim Condos, is retiring. Three Democrats are vying for the opportunity to represent the party in November's general election.

Democrats

Sarah Copeland Hanzas

Bradford

State representative and chair of the House Committee on Government Operations, former business owner

Why are you running?

Democracy is under threat from intentional misinformation to elections deniers. As chair of House Gov Ops, I have worked with all departments of the Secretary of State's office, most closely with elections. I will take my skills and passion for good government to the fight to defend democracy in Vermont.

Three accomplishments that qualify you for the office:

As a small business owner, legislative majority leader and House committee chair, I have worked across large groups with diverse opinions to lead change and achieve consensus. I have also spent 18 years listening to the ideas and concerns of my constituents, navigating intense and complicated issues that required both attention to detail and an eye to the big picture.

How will you protect the integrity of Vermont's elections?

Town clerks are our local keepers of election integrity. I'll continue to deploy real-time support to clerks on Election Day, increase training for new town clerks, perform election audits across the state ensuring paper ballots match the reported tallies and ensure we're available for questions or concerns at all times.

Name a Vermonter who inspires you.

Vermont's teachers are the heroes of our communities. Specifically, Kate Grant. When schools closed in 2020, Kate drove to school each day and Zoomed from her car because she couldn't go inside. She and so many other teachers put life on hold to be present and supportive to their students.

John Odum

Montpelier

Montpelier city clerk, former justice of the peace

Why are you running?

To bring the neighbor-to-neighbor experience of a town clerk to the office, to leverage OPR to be a conduit to promote values such as inclusion and environmental stewardship by reaching out to Vermont professionals, and as an election cybersecurity specialist I believe we need a full reimagining of voting security.

Three accomplishments that qualify you for the office:

First: I've successfully managed and modernized my local clerk's office functions, which include elections, licensing, archives and more. Second: Through my work with the University of Chicago Cyber Policy Institute, I've helped to change the nationwide conversation on election cybersecurity. Third: I have a successful record of serving and listening to Vermonters as a community elected official.

How will you protect the integrity of Vermont's elections?

Disinformation must be countered, but SoS needs a top-to-bottom cybersecurity redesign. As a "certified ethical hacker" I will lead the nation in creating a dedicated secure network for town clerks to manage elections and move away from faceless, insecure third-party election security corporations to a more secure "open source" model.

Name a Vermonter who inspires you.

Vermont is too full of inspiring, amazing people for me to pick one. I have election volunteers that amaze and inspire me. My family amazes and inspires me. There are so many people working on causes that have contributed so much more of themselves than I ever could. It's unanswerable.

Chris Winters

Berlin

Deputy secretary of state, previously director of the Office of Professional Regulation, attorney

Why are you running?

Democracy is under attack. We must hold the line and fight "The Big Lie." I have a proven track record of protecting elections. I am passionate about reducing barriers, improving services, and bringing stability and continuity to this office at a time when Vermont needs an experienced and effective leader.

Three accomplishments that qualify you for the office:

I have overseen our #1 nationally ranked elections, implemented universal vote by mail in 2020 and focused on access for New Americans and individuals with disabilities.

I have made Vermont a national leader in professional regulation.

I am driving development of a one-stop business portal for business owners to connect them to all essential governmental services.

How will you protect the integrity of Vermont's elections?

I will continue the good work we have been doing at the Secretary of State's Office. This includes focusing on preventing hacking, building good relationships with security partners, and focusing on civic education and resources. I know democracy depends on Vermonters' faith in our election system and each other.

Name a Vermonter who inspires you.

Patrick Leahy is a true public servant. He is blind in one eye. When Sen. Leahy learned that my young son had an accident causing blindness in one eye, he reached out wanting to connect with him. I strive to be an empathetic and proactive public servant like Sen. Leahy.