Democrat Shap Smith is looking for votes. "I'm Shap Smith -- running for reelection," he said, greeting voters during a recent campaign swing.
The Speaker of the Vermont House is working not just on his re-election, but working to keep Democrats in firm control in Montpelier. Last session Democrats held a 94 to 48 majority over Republicans in the House.
Reporter Kristin Carlson: How do you feel heading into the election?
Rep. Shap Smith: You are always cautious heading into an election. In 2010 we won a lot of races by very close margins. And we expect them to be heavily contested again.
And they are being contested. As we followed Smith, he ran into his Republican opponent, campaigning with the Republican Candidate for Governor.
"Well I've been knocking on some doors," Smith said.
"We've been doing the same thing," Randy Brock replied.
A cordial meeting that underlies a heated fight here and across the state. Shap Smith's opponent, Republican Mickey Smith, said it's time for change. "I see too much we've become a one party system that is ruling the roost," he said.
It's a message Republicans -- like Jack Lindley, the head of the Republican party -- are hammering this election. "When you get a Democratic Governor and a super majority of Democrats and they ram through legislation, I don't think Vermonters are well served by that," he said.
If it sounds familiar -- it is. Republicans had the same message last election and ended up losing one seat.
Reporter Kristin Carlson: How many more seats do you hope to pick up, or do you think is realistic?
Jack Lindley: It's my hope, and what I've been able to gather from intelligence, that the Republicans in the house should run into the sixties, or more.
Reporter Kristin Carlson: So you think they are going to pick up at least 12 seats?
Jack Lindley: That's correct.
Reporter Kristin Carlson: Do you think that is being ambitious? Because in the last cycle that was the same ambition and they stayed the same or lost one.
Jack Lindley: I don't think it's ambitious. We've been very careful to target our seats with good candidates.
Speaker Smith sees a different scenario, with a possible swing of one or two seats.
Reporter Kristin Carlson: Is one party control bad for Vermont?
Rep. Shap Smith: The place they see and the place I see is very different. The Democratic caucus is very diverse.
Reporter Kristin Carlson: You've been in the legislature for a while. Have you ever seen this much attention focused on the legislative make up before?
Rep. Shap Smith: No, I have not.
A super PAC called Vermonters First is supporting Republican legislative candidates, spending about $130,000 on mailers and radio ads. House Democrats have also fired back with radio ads and mailings, but spending much less -- almost $13,000.
Rep. Shap Smith: The super PAC is spending a lot of money, but I can say the candidates we have are out knocking on doors, and I feel good I think we are going to do well.
Reporter Kristin Carlson: A super PAC has been sending out mailings. Do you think that's going to have an impact on the race?
Jack Lindley: Yes.
Reporter Kristin Carlson: Do you think it's an appropriate impact?
Jack Lindley: Yes.
Republicans are hoping for gains this year, but also taking a long view. And Speaker Smith admits -- and predicts - the Republican message will one day resonate with voters, and Democrats will lose power.
Rep. Shap Smith: When I was growing up the Republican Party in Vermont was strong and I think these things go in cycles and I think it will cycle back. I think it's a matter of time.
Reporter Kristin Carlson: So you think it's a matter of time until Democrats don't have that control in Montpelier anymore?
Rep. Shap Smith: Well, I think things move in cycles.
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