Campaign Countdown: Vt. Secretary of State

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Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 6:36 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - With Election Day just two months away, two candidates are vying for Vermont secretary of state.

The Vermont Secretary of State’s Office performs numerous functions including overseeing elections, the Office of Profesional Regulation, and the Vermont State Archives, among other duties. Former state representative Sarah Copeland Hanzas, a Democrat from Bradford, faces Republican H. Brooke Paige from Washington, who ran unopposed in the primary.

Sarah Copeland Hanzas has lived in Vermont nearly all her life. She is running for secretary of state after 18 years in the Vermont House and says she wants to focus on making sure civics education is taught in schools so voters can all know how to connect with their elected officials. ” There are so many places that young people should be able to engage in government -- and in fact need to be able to engage in government -- so they can feel hopeful about the future,” she said.

Copeland Hanzas also wants to create a voter guide for Vermonters so they can see all the candidates and their platforms in one place. “I think it’s really important to focus on how to participate in democracy. I have 18 years of experience listening to my neighbors, asking them what’s working for you and what’s not working for you and what can we do better, and I will continue to do that as secretary of state,” she said.

Republican H. Brook Paige spent part of his professional life running news stands in the subways and train stations of Philadelphia before moving to Vermont in 1988 and getting involved with politics. In the last three elections, he has won Republican nominations for multiple offices when no other Republicans stepped up to run. This year, he’s on the ballot for treasurer and secretary of state in order to make sure no Democrat runs unopposed.

“I’ve been running for at least three cycles for secretary of state. I’m well aware of the duties. I believe I’m well appointed and educated as to what needs to be done in that office,” Paige said.

He says he wants to focus on the election system, which he says has become toxic with universal voting by mail. He wants to create more checks on who is voting and get rid of the state’s open primary system. “That’s part of my hope, as far as being secretary of state and elections, is to restore confidence and trustworthiness in the election process,” he said.

As a former small business owner, Copeland Hanzas says she is taking a look at how the office can better serve working people in the state. She looks to continue Secretary of State Jim Condos’ legacy of streamlining the office and making it more accessible. “Let’s make sure that if you were educated in another state -- or even another country -- we have a smooth and streamlined process so you can get licensed and practice to the full potential that your education allows,” she said.

Meanwhile, Paige hopes to narrow the scope of the Office of Professional Regulation, which regulates licensure for numerous professions. “Reel it back in so it’s more the ministerial functions of government, registering trade names, registering businesses and things like that and get out of the regulatory aspects of commerce,” Paige said.

Paige actually won the primaries for four statewide offices last month. He gave up attorney general and auditor and was replaced on the ballot by candidates chosen by the GOP. But no one stepped up to run for treasurer, so Paige is on the ballot for two offices. Under state law, he could only hold one office.

The general election is on November 8th. Mailed ballots will be going to all registered voters before the end of September.