Campaign Countdown: Can GOP dent Dem’s Statehouse supermajority?

Published: Nov. 1, 2022 at 6:31 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Election Day is just a week away and includes numerous statewide races. Vermonters will choose all 150 House and 30 Senate legislative seats. Both major parties see Election Day as a way to recalibrate the balance of power at the Statehouse.

On a chilly fall morning in Milton, candidates try to rally voters in the Chittenden North district, a new state Senate district made up of Milton, Fairfax, Westford, and part of Essex Town.

“A person such as myself can now run and have a fighting chance of winning. Where in the past, it was Burlington making the decisions,” said Leland Morgan, a Republican candidate for Vermont Senate.

Reapportionment broke up what was the largest state Senate district in the U.S. into three smaller districts. Morgan, a veteran and longtime educator, is hoping to make the jump from the House to the Senate, campaigning on public safety, water quality, and affordability through tax relief.

Chittenden North’s Democratic candidate, Irene Wrenner of Essex, served on the town’s selectboard for 12 years and founded the Essex Reporter newspaper. She’s focusing on child and eldercare, affordability, and maintaining Vermont’s rural character. “There are struggles up and down the board and we as legislators need to begin addressing all of them,” she said.

Wrenner and Morgan’s Senate race is one of many brought on by reapportionment and retirements. This year, one-third of the Senate will see fresh faces and dozens of House seats are up for grabs

“We are hoping to get as many Democrats elected for as many offices as we can, and hopefully that will lead to positive policy outcomes over the next two years,” said Vermont Democratic Party executive director Jim Dandeneau. The party and its allies held supermajorities in both chambers in the last biennium and Dandeneau says they are hoping to hold onto that influence to pass policies dealing with housing and climate change.

“A lot of those policy priorities were blocked by the governor’s vetoes.”

It takes two-thirds of a chamber to override a veto -- that’s 100 votes in the House. Republicans are aiming to win 51 seats so they can sustain vetoes from fellow Republican Governor Phil Scott if he is re-elected. Vermont GOP Chair Paul Dame says it’s about trying to bring balance to Montpelier. “I’m very confident that we can do it. It’s all going to come down to turnout,” he said. Like the GOP nationally, Dame says candidates are focusing on the economy and public safety. “We have more House members running as a team, we have more House members running with their Senate candidates than I’ve seen before.”

The balance of power and a check on gubernatorial vetoes on the ballot next Tuesday.