Sarah Copeland Hanzas Secures Democratic Nomination for Secretary of State | Politics | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Sarah Copeland Hanzas Secures Democratic Nomination for Secretary of State


Published August 10, 2022 at 11:47 a.m.

Sarah Copeland Hanzas, John Odum, Chris Winters - COURTESY PHOTOS ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Courtesy photos ©️ Seven Days
  • Sarah Copeland Hanzas, John Odum, Chris Winters
Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas (D-Bradford) secured the Democratic nomination for Vermont Secretary of State on Tuesday, winning 36 percent of the vote in a three-way primary.

Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters won 34 percent of the vote, and Montpelier City Clerk John Odum came in with almost 14 percent. More than 15 percent of voters didn't choose a candidate in the Secretary of State's race.

Copeland Hanzas is slated to face Republican H. Brooke Paige in the November 8 general election.

Copeland Hanzas, an 18-year veteran of the legislature who serves as chair of the House Committee on Government Operations, said her top priority as secretary of state would be to encourage better voter education and participation. That includes creating curricula for education on democracy in the schools as well as reaching adult voters, she said.

"I want to help people understand how government works and how elections work because when you don't understand,  you are easily disheartened, and you're susceptible to misinformation," she said. "We should be empowering people to understand the basics of how to get things done."

Along with overseeing Vermont elections, the 80-person Secretary of State's Office manages trademarks and professional licensing. It also regulates business services including data brokers, telemarketers and amusement ride operators.

The office keeps a database of campaign finance disclosures, and works with local Boards of Civil Authority to ensure that the checklist of registered voters is accurate. It also oversees business registrations, a division that licenses professions, and maintains a database of lobbyists.

While SOS candidates do run on party lines, the job itself is administrative and considered politically neutral. The current secretary of state, Democrat Jim Condos, is retiring.

All three primary candidates focused on election security in their campaigns.

Copeland Hanzas didn’t secure nearly as many big-name endorsements as Winters. But she did get a boost from former Democratic governor Madeleine Kunin, who described her as “a steady hand in the legislature.”

Asked why she thinks voters chose her, she noted she put 10,000 miles on her car in the last three months as she visited town clerks' offices, farmers markets, and businesses that are regulated by the Secretary of State's Office.

"I was saying, 'What is working for your right now? What could we do better?'"

Most members of the public, she said, told her they were focused on election security and protecting democratic processes.
"Our race was  largely peaceful and civil; there wasn't a lot of drama," she said. "So we didn't get a lot of headlines."

Copeland Hanzas said she'd like to increase training for new town clerks. While campaigning, she said, she spoke to some about creating an advisory council of veteran clerks and newer ones.

"I want to make sure we're hearing from all of those perspectives," she said.

Copeland Hanzas grew up in Corinth and Bradford, where her father started Copeland Furniture, a high-end manufacturer. A University of Vermont graduate, she taught science in Hanover, N.H., schools for two years before leaving to coach varsity field hockey and softball. She also ran a Bradford café, the Local Buzz, for 11 years.

As the returns started to come in on Tuesday night, Copeland Hanzas was playing a coed softball game in Montpelier. Her phone was off, and her campaign team monitored returns from behind the backstop. She had an early but narrow lead and told her campaign team she didn't want to hear any updates during the game unless that changed.

At midnight, with almost all the districts reporting, Copeland Hanzas still didn't know for sure whether she had won. Meanwhile, her softball team, the Barre Street Bombers, defending champions in the Montpelier CoEd recreational league, were clear victors. Copeland Hanzas said the players didn't know the exact score; they had lost count.

"It was a comfortable margin. Not like this race," she said before Winters conceded.

On Wednesday, Winters wished Copeland Hanzas a smooth transition, saying he believes she is deeply committed to public service and many of the issues he is passionate about. He thanked his mentors and colleagues at the Secretary of State's office.

"It is a special place and I will miss working there," he said.

Condos endorsed Winters as the best choice to succeed him.

Copeland Hanzas praised Condos' work  over the last 11 years, and said she plans to seek his guidance if she's elected.

"We've worked together for years, and I consider him a mentor and a friend," Copeland Hanzas said.

Correction, August 11, 2022: Jim Condos endorsed Chris Winters. A previous version of this story contained an error.