Democrats, Progressives Secure Veto-Proof Legislative Majorities | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Democrats, Progressives Secure Veto-Proof Legislative Majorities


Published November 9, 2022 at 3:57 p.m.

Democrats celebrating at Hula Lakeside on Tuesday night - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Democrats celebrating at Hula Lakeside on Tuesday night
Democrats and Progressives strengthened their grip on the Vermont Statehouse on Tuesday, adding to their ranks in both chambers and securing a crucial veto-proof majority in the House of Representatives.

Democrats, who currently have 93 seats in the 150-member House, picked up 11 additional seats, bringing their total to 104. Five Progressives won House seats as well.

That means those parties will have more than enough votes to secure a two-thirds majority in both legislative chambers, which would be necessary to override any vetoes from Gov. Phil Scott on key legislative priorities.

The Republican governor has used his veto pen frequently and to great effect, regularly thwarting major Democratic priorities in recent years, including paid family leave, reforms to Act 250 and bills meant to curb climate pollution.

In some cases, Democrats and Progressives have failed to override Scott’s vetoes by a single vote, losses that have frustrated party leaders.

Democrats and Progressives  had enjoyed a veto-proof majority of 23 in the 30-member Senate before the election. Next year, they'll still have 23 seats.

House Speaker Jill Krowinski (D-Burlington) declared happily around 11 p.m. on Tuesday that her party had won a supermajority of House Democrats.

“I’m just so thrilled with this amazing group of people who are going to be going to the Statehouse in January on a mission to make Vermont a better place for everyone,” Krowinski said to raucous cheers at Hula Lakeside, where the party faithful had gathered.

Krowinski said she plans once again to take up paid family leave, which failed by a single vote in 2020. “This is not the end. This is just beginning of our journey,” she said.

Party chair Anne Lezak echoed Krowinski’s optimism for the next biennium. “What a legislative session we are in for — the unstoppable Democratic House!” she declared.

Party executive director Jim Dandeneau was also exuberant on Tuesday night. "What we accomplished tonight in Vermont was nothing short of extraordinary," Dandeneau said.

He gave much of the credit for the gains to Cameron McClimans, the party’s House campaign director, who worked closely with candidates in key races.

Scott’s spokesperson, Jason Maulucci, said the wins by Democrats won’t change the way he governs. “Our takeaway from the results last night is Vermonters want balance,” Maulucci said.

Scott was in the minority throughout his career as a lawmaker and lieutenant governor, and he has long worked with a legislature that could block his vetoes, Maulucci said. Just because Democrats have the numbers doesn’t mean they’re all of the same mind, and Scott will continue to try to find ways to achieve the goals that in most cases he shares with lawmakers, Maulucci said.

Most of the communities that sent Democrats to the legislature — including deeply blue places such as Burlington and Brattleboro — also voted for Scott by double-digit margins. That, Maulucci said, shows voters want lawmakers "to work with the governor, and they want the compromise to go both ways.”

Democrats didn't flip all the districts that they had eyes on. They had hoped the
Independent Jed Lipsky won a Stowe seat that Democrats had hoped to pick up. - KEVIN MCCALLUM
  • Kevin McCallum
  • Independent Jed Lipsky won a Stowe seat that Democrats had hoped to pick up.
retirement of longtime Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe) would create an opening for newcomer Scott Weathers. But he had just moved to the town in 2020 and was branded a carpetbagger. Independent Jed Lipsky, a logger, won Stowe’s new single-member district with 60 percent of the vote.

But Democratics picked up several seats in other areas affected by redistricting. Rep. Katherine Sims (D-Craftsbury) defeated Rep. Vicki Strong (R-Albany) to represent the redrawn Orleans-4 District. Sims enjoyed 60 percent of the vote to Strong’s 38 percent.

At least two former legislators made comebacks that helped the Democratic Party extend its gains in the House.

Robin Chestnut-Tangerman, a Progressive from Middletown Springs who lost in 2020, came back as a Democrat to beat Rep. Sally Achey (R-Middletown Springs), 53 percent to 45 percent. And Carl Demrow, a Democrat from Corinth who also lost in 2020, beat Rep. Samantha Lefebvre (R-Orange) by 52 percent to 46 percent.