Primary Preview: Meet the candidates for Vt. attorney general
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Two Democrats are facing off in next month’s primary election for Vermont attorney general following the resignation of Attorney General T.J. Donovan earlier this summer.
Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault and former AG Chief of Staff Charity Clark are vying to fill the open seat as the state’s top lawyer.
“I want to be proactive for Vermonters and pushing back and making sure that our values are defended here and in the nation,” Thibault said.
“We need a leader at this moment in history who can meet the moment, a leader with the experience, the background, the understanding of the breadth and scope of the office,” Clark said.
Thibault says his work as a county prosecutor and former assistant attorney general has prepared him for statewide office. “So many of the issues we deal with in Washington County are statewide issues. And so in that sense, I feel like I’m well qualified in the sense of I have relationships with law enforcement. I have relationships with community advocates, and the benefit of being here in Montpelier is the ability to interact with a lot of legislators during the session,” he said.
Clark worked in the AG’s office for the last eight years, most recently as Donovan’s chief of staff before he resigned to take a job in the private sector. She stepped down to campaign. “I was a part of the decisions of every major issue facing the office and it’s this background and experience that makes me, I think, the best candidate,” Clark said.
Clark says she wants to ensure the state’s criminal justice system reflects Vermonters’ values, using restorative justice, protecting consumers, and women’s rights. “I will be the first woman elected attorney general of our state, and of course would place a refocus on the issues of violence against women, whether it be domestic violence or reproductive rights,” Clark said.
Thibault, a former Navy Judge Advocate General, says he is also focused on criminal justice reform. “Not just looking at how we do officer accountability, but also getting really deep in about how we’re doing in juvenile justice, how we’re making sure victims are part of the process. We’re not forgetting them when we are forming systems and processes. And also really just how do we make this system one that is transparent and fair for everyone,” Thibault said.
Both promise to address the opioid crisis and Thibault says his approach in Washington County has been a combination of empathy while enforcing the law. “The only way we block in or get to success is by both reducing demand, by keeping people in recovery and then also working to reduce the free flow of supply into the state of Vermont,” he said.
Clark points to her work handling high-profile lawsuits against big pharma for the AG’s office. “And I will continue to zealously advocate on behalf of Vermont against those who are responsible for the opioid crisis,” she said.
Gov. Phil Scott last month appointed Susanne Young to fill Donovans’s seat for the remainder of his term but she is not running for the position. H. Brook Paige, a perennial GOP candidate for various offices, is running unopposed in his party’s primary.
The primary is coming up on August 9.
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