PUTNEY—State Rep. Mike Mrowicki, D-Putney, was first elected to the Windham-4 House district encompassing Dummerston, Putney, and Westminster in 2006.
In his five re-election campaigns for the House since then, Mrowicki has always had his district-mate, David Deen of Westminster, to run beside him.
This year, however, marks the first campaign that the 63-year-old Mrowicki hasn’t had Deen at his side.
Deen, 73, decided not to run for re-election after serving 14 terms in the House.
“It wasn’t until there were a couple of weeks left in the regular session that he decided to retire,” said Mrowicki. “We’re going to miss his knowledge and his gravitas.”
Now, Mrowicki hopes to assume the mantle of the senior member of the two-representative district. He is running in the Aug. 14 Democratic primary against two Dummerston residents, Town Moderator Cindy Jerome and Vermont State Trooper Nader Hashim.
Whichever two candidates win the primary will be unopposed in the Nov. 6 general election.
Mrowicki’s four grandparents all emigrated from Poland after World War I. “I grew up in a Polish-American community in Jersey City, N.J., and I moved to Vermont in 1981 because I thought this was the kind of place to raise a family,” Mrowicki said. “It’s a great place to live, and I want to make sure it stays that way for other people.”
Targeted by right
This is the first time Mrowicki has had a challenge in a party primary since the 2006 election, when he defeated incumbent Steve Darrow of Putney.
While Hashim and Jerome are newcomers to statewide politics, Mrowicki has the long paper trail that comes with six terms in the Legislature.
He said he is “quite proud” that he and Deen were among 22 Democratic state legislators in Vermont targeted for defeat in 2016 by the Republican State Leadership Committee, a political action group bankrolled by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch.
“If my values upset the Koch brothers enough that they had to reach way down into a House race [in Vermont], I must be doing something right,” Mrowicki said. “They would like nothing better than to flip seats in the Legislature the way they have in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.”
Mrowicki, who serves on the House Committee on Human Services, has worked in social-service positions in the area, including in positions at Putney Family Services, where he served as executive director for many years. He is a graduate of Marlboro College Graduate School’s Nonprofit Management Program.
According to his official state representative’s bio, he has also been involved with the leadership of the Vermont Positive Fatherhood Initiative, Putney Food Shelf, Windham Hunger Council, and Sojourns Community Health Center. He is a member of the Putney Quaker Meeting.
Mrowicki has been a steadfast supporter of social-welfare spending and caring for vulnerable Vermonters.
“These are investments that define Vermont’s quality of life,” he said, adding that adequate funding for education, health care, the environment, and programs that aid those in need “are what we need to invest in our future as a state.”
Mrowicki was one of the sponsors of legislation that addresses what’s known as ACEs, or adverse childhood experiences. ACEs are stressful or traumatic events, including neglect and abuse, that often have lasting negative effects on a person’s future health and well-being as one grows up and becomes an adult.
The bill passed the House this year by a vote of 138–0 and was ultimately signed into law by Gov. Phil Scott.
Mrowicki said those investments in human services on the state level are more important now, as President Donald Trump and his administration attempt to undermine programs important to Vermonters.
“We’ve had to push back against the federal government like we never had before, like pushing back on economic justice, with a higher minimum wage and paid family leave for workers,” he said. “We’re not going to succumb to the Trump chaos.”
And now, Mrowicki said, there is also a certain amount of pushing back against Scott by Democratic and Progressive lawmakers on issues like education funding.
Guns, and power
Mrowicki said he was pleased that the governor signed into law three gun bills this year — one limiting the size of gun magazines, another increasing the age for buying a firearm to 21, and a third expanding background checks to private gun sales.
However, Mrowicki said he believes one more important piece of legislation is still needed: a waiting period before someone can purchase a firearm.
“States that have waiting periods have reduced rates of suicide and domestic gun violence. I think that’s the next step, and I think we can show that the world is not going to end and the sky is not going to fall because we passed some common-sense gun reforms.”
But Mrowicki thinks Scott’s change of heart on firearms regulation affected the state budget debate, which threatened to grind Vermont’s government to a halt.
“The whole budget debate at the end of the session this year wasn’t really about property taxes,” said Mrowicki. “Scott’s poll numbers dropped 20 percent, and he needed to create a new narrative.”
Public education is critical to democracy, said Mrowicki, who accused Scott of trying to get more power over the state’s education system.
“He doesn’t have the votes in the Legislature, so he’s trying to slide in through the back door. We really need to be vigilant.”