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Vermont Democratic Caucus Cluster#$@& *updated*


Published November 13, 2008 at 11:13 a.m.

The race for top leadership posts in the legislative Democratic caucus is getting very crowded.

As I pointed out in my post-election column, there is a crowded race for Speaker of the House. Now, it looks like there is a battle for majority leader, too.

Floyd Nease, of Johnson, the assistant majority leader, was the only candidate running for majority leader, until now. Janet Ancel, of Calais, is also tossing her hat into the race for majority leader.

Ancel, who served as chairwoman of the House Education Committee this past session, has plenty of legislative and executive experience. She was Gov. Howard Dean's legal counsel and served as tax commissioner under Dean. Prior to that, she worked for lawmakers in legislative council.

"I think we have an opportunity this coming session to have a really strong team at the top and I think I bring some real strengths to the job," said Ancel. She sees the role of majority leader as a good manager, and one who has to listen to all members of the caucus, which will be a whopping 95 in January.

Ancel said her decision to run is not a reflection on Nease's abilities. "People are worried about it being divisive for the caucus, but I disagree. I think this is an indication of how strong we are."

That strength and depth is certainly on display in the race for speaker, to replace outgoing Speaker Gaye Symington.

House Majority Leader Rep. Carolyn Partridge, of Windham, was first out of the gate in the race for speaker. But, she is facing strong challenges from Rep. Mark Larson, of Burlington; Rep. Shap Smith of Morristown; Rep. John Rodgers, of Glover; and Rep. Johanna Leddy Donovan, of Burlington.

Word is that the battle for speaker is coming down to Smith and Larson. 

Other reps rumored to be vying for leadership posts are Rep. Maxine Grad, of Moretown, and Rep. Sue Minter, of Waterbury. But, they told me those are just rumors.  Rep. Jason Lorber, of Burlington, is also said to be mulling a bid for a leadership post. No word from him yet on whether it's more than a rumor.

Not to be outdone, the Republicans are also looking for new leadership. Rep. Steve Adams, of Hartland, is stepping down as House minority leader and has thrown his support behind Rep. Patti Komline, of Dorset, who was the assistant minority leader last session. Sounds like Komline has a lock on the job.

So, who will the GOP's number two leader in the House? None other than Rep. Pat McDonald, of Berlin. McDonald was elected to the House this November after having been appointed to the seat in 2007. She has a long resume in state government: In 1991 she was appointed personnel commissioner by Gov. Richard Snelling. She then served Govs. Dean and Jim Doulgas as commissioner of labor, employment and training, motor vehicles and as secretary of transportation, among other posts.

UPDATE: I just heard from Rep. Rodgers, and he is dropping out of the Speaker's race and backing Rep. Smith. Rodgers said it's just too big a job to tackle right now. Also, Rep. Jason Lorber, of Burlington, confirmed that he is running for assistant majority leader.