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Election 2020

Saturday, May 23, 2020

House Appropriations Chair Kitty Toll Won't Seek Reelection

Posted By on Sat, May 23, 2020 at 8:00 AM

Kitty Toll - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Kitty Toll

Rep. Kitty Toll (D-Danville), the chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, announced Saturday that she will not seek reelection.

Her departure after 12 years in office will leave the House without one of its most experienced number-crunchers as it enters an era likely marked by economic scars caused by the pandemic.

In a statement, Toll said the decision was a difficult one and called  representing the residents of Cabot, Danville and Peacham in the Northeast Kingdom "one of the biggest honors of my life."

"We have experienced tumultuous economic times as well as a divided political landscape, and I am humbled by the trust my district has placed in me to help navigate these waters," Toll said.
 

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Friday, May 22, 2020

Lawmakers to Consider Bypassing Scott to Switch to Mail-In Voting

Posted By on Fri, May 22, 2020 at 5:14 PM

Gov. Phil Scott - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Vermont lawmakers moved closer Friday to stripping Gov. Phil Scott of a say in whether the November general election should take place by mail-in voting.

Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham), chair of the Senate Government Operations Committee, told colleagues Friday afternoon that since Scott and Secretary of State Jim Condos had not reached agreement on the issue, she planned to take up a bill Tuesday that would remove Scott from the equation.

“I’m not going to try to read anybody’s mind, but it seemed in the press conference as if the governor has actually invited us to do that,” White said.

White was referring to Scott's remarks earlier that morning. Asked by Seven Days about the maneuvering, the governor said, "If the legislature wants to take me out of it, that’s fine. I won’t stand in their way. They’re the ones who put me in to begin with.”

Lawmakers originally proposed giving Condos, a Democrat, the sole power to decide how elections should be safely conducted this year given health concerns about voters crowding polling places during a pandemic. In the interests of getting a bill passed quickly, lawmakers agreed to GOP demands that Scott, a Republican, share in the decision.

The compromise bill passed by lawmakers and signed by Scott on March 30 gives authority to the secretary of state, “in consultation and agreement with the Governor,” to make changes to 2020 elections for health and safety reasons.

White said she planned to take up a bill to simply remove the words "and agreement" from the existing law. She said the bill would be public before Tuesday and her committee would take testimony on it.

"I didn’t ask to be put in this position," Scott said at the presser. "The legislature’s the one that put me in this position to add my voice. If they expected a rubber stamp, they picked the wrong person, and maybe they should have just continued to put it in the hands of the secretary of state." 

Condos and Scott have been engaged in an increasingly tense standoff over the issue ever since the original law passed. Condos said there isn’t time to switch to mail-in voting for the August 11 primary, but it could be put in place for the November 3 general election — if preparations begin soon.

He and others argue that the best way to protect poll workers and voters from the coronavirus, which public health officials have said could flare up again in the fall, is to mail ballots to every registered voter in the state.

Voters would fill out their ballot, sign it under penalty of perjury and mail it back to their town clerks. Because of the scale of the mail-in voting proposed, the Secretary of State's Office would orchestrate the effort in conjunction with local clerks.

Voters would still have the ability to deliver their mail-in ballots to polling places on election day, but the goal of the effort is keep numbers at the polls as low as possible.

Scott has expressed concerns about the mail-in voting plan, arguing that the decision is premature. He has said he isn’t concerned about voter fraud. Rather, he argued the state should be working to return to normal, not to upend cherished institutions unnecessarily.

Democratic leaders and left-leaning groups like the Vermont Public Interest Research Group have come out strongly in favor of Condos’ plan. Meanwhile Vermont Republican Party chair Deb Billado has excoriated the plan as a liberal “power play” with great risk of fraud. Will Senning, the state’s director of elections and campaign finance, has called the fraud risk of mail-in ballots “infinitesimal.”

Condos has insisted that a decision needs to be made soon to allow elections officials to ink the requisite contracts with printing and mailing houses.

Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) has said it would be best if the two men could agree, but if they couldn't by this week the legislature needed to step in.

Even though the state has made excellent progress in containing COVID-19, Ashe favors moving forward with a mail-in process because experts have said there could be a resurgence of the virus as the economy reopens.

"'Let's say we learn that in September they’re expecting an October increase," Ashe said this week. "Well, it's going to be way too late at that point."

In the latest negotiations between Condos and Scott, Condos proposed an “off ramp” that would allow them to scrap mail-in voting in August if conditions improve. Scott countered by proposing that a five-member committee made up of elections, public health and local officials make the decision. 

Condos rejected that plan as abdicating the responsibility the legislature gave to them. “As the elected officials entrusted to make this decision, we need to lead,” Condos wrote.

Disclosure: Tim Ashe is the domestic partner of
Seven Days publisher and coeditor Paula Routly. Find our conflict-of-interest policy here: sevendaysvt.com/disclosure.

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Assistant Attorney General David Scherr Enters Senate Race

Posted By on Thu, May 21, 2020 at 5:11 PM

David Scherr - COURTESY OF DAVID SCHERR
  • Courtesy of David Scherr
  • David Scherr
David Scherr, an assistant attorney general, is the latest candidate to announce a run in the six-seat Chittenden County state Senate district.

The 37-year-old Burlington resident and former public defender says he’s looking to bring his experience working for a fairer criminal justice system to the Statehouse. Scherr said in an interview that the skills he's developed in his criminal justice career will go a long way to help vulnerable Vermonters weather and recover from the pandemic.

“All of that experience and perspective and understanding of how people can really struggle in this state is exactly what we need in the legislature right now, maybe more than ever,” Scherr said.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Adam Roof, Former Burlington City Councilor, Joins Crowded Senate Field

Posted By on Tue, May 19, 2020 at 2:25 PM

Adam Roof while on Burlington City Council - FILE: COURTNEY LAMDIN
  • File: Courtney Lamdin
  • Adam Roof while on Burlington City Council
Former Burlington city councilor Adam Roof announced Tuesday that he’s joining the growing field of candidates for Vermont Senate.

Roof, 31, told Seven Days he’s running as a Democrat for one of the six Chittenden County Senate seats because the state needs people with a diversity of government, nonprofit and business experience to help Vermont recover from the pandemic.

“If we’re not able to work across those sectors in the next couple of years, we’re going to be in a lot of trouble,” he said.

There will be two openings in the district as incumbents Tim Ashe, the Democrat/Progressive Senate president pro tempore, and Debbie Ingram, a Democrat, are running for lieutenant governor.

The district's four other incumbents announced last week that they'll run for reelection on the Democrat line: Sens. Philip Baruth, Ginny Lyons, Christopher Pearson and Michael Sirotkin.

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Friday, May 15, 2020

Emma Mulvaney-Stanak Announces Bid for Vermont House

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2020 at 4:15 PM

Emma Mulvaney-Stanak - COURTESY OF LAURA HALE
  • Courtesy of Laura Hale
  • Emma Mulvaney-Stanak
Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, who formerly served as both a Burlington city councilor and as chair of the Vermont Progressive Party, has announced her candidacy for the Vermont House.

Mulvaney-Stanak will run in the Chittenden 6-2 House district, where Rep. Jean O’Sullivan (D-Burlington) currently holds the sole seat. It includes parts of Burlington’s Old North End and New North End neighborhoods. Mulvaney-Stanak said she plans to seek the Democratic nomination, as well as the Progressive endorsement.

"Now more than ever, we really need voices in the Statehouse that are clearly and laser-focused on economic justice issues," she told Seven Days, including decent wages and workers' rights. The mother of two said she'd also focus on equity and education, and added that Vermont should do more for young families.

"I have a front-row seat to the struggles of finding affordable, high-quality childcare," she said. "That is a real-life struggle for thousands of Vermonters. It matters when you have people in the Statehouse who are actually living that."

Mulvaney-Stanak worked for more than 10 years for the Vermont-National Education Association teachers' union, where she led organizing and leadership development efforts. In 2018, she launched a consulting business, EMStrategies, through which, she said, she supports social change and equity issues for clients such as unions and school districts. She also coaches political candidates.

O'Sullivan, a businesswoman who established a financial services company,  was appointed to the seat in 2012 and has been reelected four times since. She, too, formerly served as a Burlington city councilor.

O'Sullivan did not respond to requests for comment. 

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Monday, May 11, 2020

'Joey' Donovan Won't Seek Reelection to the Vermont House

Posted By on Mon, May 11, 2020 at 7:33 PM

Reps. Johannah Donovan (left) and Mary Sullivan - COURTESY: MARY SULLIVAN
  • Courtesy: Mary Sullivan
  • Reps. Johannah Donovan (left) and Mary Sullivan
Rep. Johannah "Joey" Leddy Donovan (D-Burlington), an influential liberal who has served in Montpelier for 20 years, will not seek reelection in November.

"You always want to leave of your own volition, before someone's helping you out the door," Donovan told Seven Days on Monday. "So I think this is a good time for me to leave."

Donovan, 75, said she was gearing up for her reelection campaign in a COVID-19 world when she realized she'd accomplished a lot and was ready to move on.

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Friday, May 8, 2020

Pressure Builds on Scott to Approve Mail-In Voting

Posted By on Fri, May 8, 2020 at 1:57 PM

Gov. Phil Scott - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Gov. Phil Scott is coming under increasing pressure to allow Vermont’s November general election to be conducted by mail, something he continues to resist despite the pleas of state elections officials that planning needs to begin now.

Earlier this year, the legislature gave Secretary of State Jim Condos the authority to change the format of elections held in Vermont in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic “in consultation and agreement with the Governor.”

Scott argues that a decision about the general election doesn’t need to be made until after the August primaries. He says he’s not worried about voter fraud, an issue that some other Republicans around the nation have raised to oppose mail-in elections. Scott’s preference is to hold a regular in-person election if possible in November to allow the state to continue its steady return to normalcy.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Burlington Rep. Mary Sullivan Won't Seek Reelection

Posted By on Tue, Apr 14, 2020 at 1:40 PM

Rep. Mary Sullivan - COURTESY OF THE VERMONT LEGISLATURE
  • Courtesy of the Vermont Legislature
  • Rep. Mary Sullivan
Updated at 2:16 p.m.

Mary Sullivan, a longtime Democratic state representative from Burlington, has announced that she will not seek reelection after 16 nonconsecutive years in the legislature.

Sullivan announced the news in a Facebook post Tuesday morning. Speaking to Seven Days shortly after, she said she had been contemplating the decision since the session began in January.

"I always wanted to go out when I was still loving the work and figuring that I could still do other things in life," said the 67-year-old retiree. "It wasn't an easy decision, but I'm still feeling OK with it."

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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders Suspends His Presidential Campaign

Posted By on Wed, Apr 8, 2020 at 11:41 AM

Sen. Bernie Sanders making his announcement online - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders making his announcement online
Updated at 3:49 p.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has suspended his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, bringing to a close his relentless and dogged pursuit of the presidency on a platform of progressive ideals for health, income and equality.

Despite a promising start for Sanders in the primary season and strong support from young people, Vermont's junior senator had faded in recent weeks, beginning with a disappointing Super Tuesday showing on March 3.
The slide continued into Tuesday’s primary in Wisconsin, a contest Sanders was expected to lose to former vice president Joe Biden, now the presumptive Democratic nominee. Sanders won that state's primary in 2016 during his unsuccessful bid for the nomination against Hillary Clinton.

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Monday, March 23, 2020

Bernie Sanders
Sanders Skips Key Vote on Coronavirus Rescue Package

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2020 at 12:08 AM

Sen. Bernie Sanders addressing supporters Sunday night from his campaign office in Burlington - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders addressing supporters Sunday night from his campaign office in Burlington
During a campaign livestream Sunday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) railed against a $1.8 trillion package meant to prop up the economy and deliver relief from the coronavirus pandemic.

"I do have to say that I was really stunned to read aspects of the Republican bill that has been proposed," he told his viewers.

But an hour earlier, when that same bill came up for a key vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Sanders was nowhere to be seen. Unlike most of his colleagues, who were in Washington, D.C., Sanders was back home in Vermont, preparing to address supporters from his Burlington campaign office.

Republicans needed 60 votes on Sunday to advance the bill, which would provide $1,200 cash payments to most Americans, extend unemployment benefits, and bail out businesses, states and local governments. The procedural vote ended in a 47-47 tie. Vermont's other U.S. senator, Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), opposed it.

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