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Laura Chapman, left, and Nader Hashim monitor the voting results during a gathering at the Putney Diner on Aug. 14.

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For one political newcomer, a long wait on election night

Hashim tops Jerome in Windham-4 contest to join incumbent Mrowicki in two-seat district

PUTNEY—As the tired revelers at the Putney Diner waited for the last of the Windham-4 House district results, a call came in to Laura Chapman’s cell phone at 11:32 p.m.

It was Rep. Mike Mrowicki, calling from the polls at the Putney Fire Station. He informed Chapman, Nader Hashim’s campaign strategist, that all the votes were tallied.

The Putney numbers brought the final totals of the two-seat district, which also includes Dummerston and Westminster, to 1,210 for Mrowicki, 1,076 for Hashim, and 708 for Jerome.

With no Republican opponent on the ballot, Hashim, a newcomer to politics and a State Trooper, will join Mrowicki in the Legislature.

With the retirement of longtime Representative David Deen, Hashim, a trooper with the Vermont State Police, and Jerome, the former executive director of and current consultant to two assisted-living facilities in Brattleboro, jumped into the race.

‘The numbers look insurmountable’

As “canvasser extraordinaire” Charley Todd popped the cork on a bottle of Prosecco, Chapman handed Hashim the phone.

“Hey, Mike,” said Hashim, “It’s Nader. I’m looking forward to working with you.”

A half hour before Mrowicki’s call, Hashim received another phone call.

He then announced to the campaign: “The [Putney] numbers aren’t in, but I just got off the phone with Cindy Jerome, who has conceded.”

After the cheering died down, Hashim continued, “She said the numbers look insurmountable.”

He told the attendees Jerome noted that the race was clean, “no mud was slung,” and they can “present a united front as Democrats.”

At that point, election officials from Dummerston and Westminster had reported their final tallies to Chapman.

In Dummerston, the results were Mrowicki 342, Hashim 306, and Jerome 247.

There was some confusion earlier in the evening when Chapman took a call from Fran Renaud, who serves on the Board of Civil Authority in Westminster. Her results showed Hashim in last place, with two fewer votes than Jerome.

A guest asked Hashim if he would contest the close results.

“I don’t know,” he said, and added, “we’ll see what happens.”

What happened was, Matthew Conklin — Renaud’s colleague and the chair of the Westminster Democratic Committee — called Chapman with the actual numbers, just a few minutes later. These came directly from the town clerk’s tally, said Chapman.

There was no need for Hashim to contest these results: Mrowicki, 398; Hashim, 331; and Jerome, 233.

“We’ll get more [campaign] t-shirts made. Bumper stickers, too,” Hashim told a guest.

Unusual energy and turnout

Throughout the evening, conversation among the 30 or so attendees kept coming back to the unusual energy for a non-presidential-election-year primary.

“I live in Dummerston Center,” said Catherine Gruver, who noted, “it’s the busiest I’ve ever seen the Town Offices. It was all day.”

Dave Evans, Hashim’s campaign manager, said that in Putney, “there were 200 early or absentee ballots.”

“I’ve seen more involvement and interest at all levels,” said Hashim. “I think a lot of that is due to the dystopian policies from Washington and the Trump administration. I think people are realizing how important it is to get involved.”

“I got involved in Hashim’s campaign because there’s only so much money you can donate,” said Evans, who noted, ”sometimes you have to roll up your sleeves and get to work.”

About 15 minutes after Mrowicki’s call to Hashim’s party, he arrived at the diner to cheers and applause. A gaggle of well-wishers surrounded the two men, snapping photos with their smartphones.

The (unconfirmed) results from Putney: Mrowicki received 470 votes; Hashim 449; and Cindy Jerome, 270.

Mrowicki provided The Commons with a brief speech: “I want to thank my wife [Amelia Struthers] and the campaign team that did so much work, and the voters for trusting me to bring their voice to Montpelier and continue working for justice and inclusion.”

Hashim addressed his soon-to-be constituents.

“I’m gonna keep this super quick so you can all go home,” he said.

“This is the culmination of months and months of hard work,” he continued. “There are a few people who made this campaign their full-time work, and everyone in this room helped out in some way, large or small.”

“My promise: no matter what happens, I will always be honest and accountable in the Statehouse,” said Hashim, who ended with, “I’m excited, and I’m looking forward to working with you.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #472 (Wednesday, August 15, 2018). This story appeared on page A1.

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