Senate Dems Pick Baruth for Majority Leader, Ayer for Assistant Majority Leader | Off Message
Pin It
Favorite

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Senate Dems Pick Baruth for Majority Leader, Ayer for Assistant Majority Leader

Posted By on Sat, Jan 5, 2013 at 2:53 PM

click to enlarge baruth.jpg
For the drama-prone Senate Democratic caucus, a Saturday meeting to elect its leadership went remarkably smoothly.

Huddled around a conference table at Montpelier's Capitol Plaza, the 23-member caucus selected Sen. Philip Baruth (D-Chittenden) as majority leader and Sen. Claire Ayer (D-Addison) as assistant majority leader. Both were elected by voice vote — without opposition.

Baruth's selection as the party's consensus-seeker and enforcer signaled a remarkable turnaround for a relatively junior and liberal member who distinguished himself last session — his first — as a voice of opposition and, at times, obstruction. But Baruth's fellow senators appeared to accept the Burlington Democrat's pledge to put the priorities of the caucus before his own.

Oh, and nobody else wanted the job.

After nominating Baruth for the post, Sen. Bobby Starr (D-Essex/Orleans) — a longtime conservative Democrat from the Northeast Kingdom — said that despite their philosophical differences, he believed Baruth to be "a great guy" and "a great communicator."

"Most of you know that Phil's a little more liberal than I might be. Just a little," Starr said, prompting chuckles from around the room. "But over the two years, I can honestly say we never had an argument over an issue. We had great discussions, debate. But in the end, Phil was willing to compromise. I was willing to compromise. And that's what this process is all about."

Even after securing his new position, Baruth sought in brief remarks to allay his colleagues' concerns that he might use it to rock the legislative boat.

"I certainly feel strongly about what I believe in. Like everybody else, I want to implement changes. That's why I got elected," he said. "That said, my priority every single day will be the caucus and not what I happen to be thinking of that morning for myself and my agenda."

click to enlarge dem.caucus.group.1.5.13.jpg
Baruth, an English professor at the University of Vermont — not to mention a novelist and recovering political blogger — will be joined in the leadership ranks by Ayer, a registered nurse from Weybridge. Ayer had initially sought and secured the majority leader position, but backed out last week in favor of retaining the chairmanship of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.

The two succeed former majority leader Bill Carris and assistant majority leader Hinda Miller, both of whom left the Senate after the conclusion of last year's term.

Baruth and Ayer will likely serve as numbers two and three in the Senate to John Campbell, a Quechee Democrat who is expected to retain his position as Senate President Pro Tem when the body formally elects its officers Wednesday.

Immediately after his election, Baruth got a taste of the job to come as he presided over a two-hour discussion of the caucus' legislative priorities in the coming months. Near the end, he sought to forge consensus over the timing of the Dems' weekly meeting during the legislative session.

As chaos erupted, Starr piped up to warn Baruth of the perils of striving for consensus.

"You gotta remember, Phil, you're the boss," he said.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Pin It
Favorite

About The Author

Paul Heintz

Paul Heintz

Bio:
Paul Heintz is a staff writer and political editor for Seven Days. He wrote the "Fair Game" political column from May 2012 through December 2016.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Keep commenting classy! Read our guidelines...

Note: Comments are limited to 300 words.

Social Club

Like Seven Days contests and events? Join the club!

See an example of this newsletter...

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2017 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401
Website powered by Foundation