DUMMERSTON — After stepping down after his first term in the Vermont House, Nader Hashim wants to return to Montpelier.
Hashim officially announced his candidacy on Feb. 7 for the Vermont Senate. He will be running in the Democratic Party primary this August, seeking one of the two seats representing Windham County.
One of those seats is opening up with the decision by Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint to run for the U.S. House of Representatives.
In an interview with The Commons, Hashim, 33, said he decided to try for the Senate after numerous conversations with “former supporters, mentors, friends, and family.”
“With the way the political landscape was changing, I saw an opportunity to return to the State House and reapply my experiences in the Senate,” he said.
Hashim said his campaign will be doing a listening tour around the county over the next few months, and hope to have a formal in-person launch of the campaign in May, Covid permitting, and start door-to-door campaigning after that.
A term in the House
Hashim was elected to the Legislature from the Windham-4 district - which covers Dummerston, Putney, and Westminster - in 2018, while still a trooper with the Vermont State Police.
He ultimately had to resign from the force in May 2019 after nearly eight years when it became too difficult to do both jobs.
When he announced in the spring of 2020 that he wasn't going to seek re-election in the fall election, Hashim cited the social and economic disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the nature of Vermont's part-time legislature.
“No matter how I look at the numbers, I'm faced with the decision of either running for reelection, or continuing to pay my bills on time and putting food on the table,” Hashim wrote to his constituents via Facebook.
Vermont's lawmakers are now paid $742.92 per week during the session, which usually runs from January through early May; up to $132 per day for lodging; up to $66 per day for meals; and 57.5 cents per mile.
The Legislature is part-time in the sense that it requires full-time-plus work for only a portion of the year. That puts a burden on legislators to find work that affords unusual flexibility or to work as self-employed independent contractors when the session is adjourned.
But, after the 2019 session, Hashim began work as a paralegal and investigator with Chadwick & Spensley, PLLC, a law firm in Brattleboro, and entered the law office study program. He is halfway through the four-year process that enables those who complete it to take the bar exam and be licensed to practice law in Vermont.
His career path has removed some of that economic uncertainty. “Thanks to my family and my employer, I'm in a much better position than I've ever been in to serve again,” he said this week.
Since leaving the House, Hashim has served as the assistant director of the Bright Leadership Institute, a new nonprofit that trains Black, Indigenous people, and people of color to run for office in Vermont.
Hashim - the first-generation American son of a father from Egypt and a mother from Iran - also serves as a vice president of the Windham County chapter of the NAACP, as a member of the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union Superintendent Search Committee, as the chair of the Dummerston Democratic Committee, and as a member of two subcommittees of the Cannabis Control Board.
'A pretty unique perspective'
During in his one term in the House, Hashim served on the Judiciary Committee and drew upon his life experience as a person of color and as a person with hands-on experience in law enforcement in deliberating public policy issues.
“I bring a pretty unique perspective to this campaign,” he said. “As a state trooper, I've been in every town in Windham Country and [have] seen firsthand a lot of the challenges that Vermonters struggle with - whether it's opioid use, domestic violence, poverty, mental health issues, or a mix of those things.”
“When I went to the House, I was able to make some real tangible changes to address some of these issues,” Hashim said.
During his term in the House, Hashim said he advocated and worked on bills related to defending victims of domestic assault, increasing penalties for serial abusers, protecting reproductive freedom, holding corporate environmental polluters accountable, raising the minimum wage, instituting paid family leave, and creating a regulated retail cannabis market.
Top issues: housing and climate change
In talking to people around the county in preparation for his Senate run, Hashim said he is hearing that the top issue for potential constituents is housing and that there is not enough of it that people can afford.
That issue is also tied in with workforce development, he said.
“If we want to invest in housing, we also have to invest in getting more people to work in the building trades so we can get these house actually built,” Hashim said.
Climate change is not far behind as a big concern for Vermonters, Hashim said, adding that Vermont “needs to take into account climate resiliency and making sure our communities are able to withstand the changes that we're seeing as a result of climate change.”
Collaborations and coalitions
As was the case when he served in the House, Hashim believes that it will take collaboration and coalition building to see movement on such issues “because no one legislator has all the answers, but when they get together and bring in their knowledge and expertise, that's when things get done.”
Hashim also wants to share what he has learned in the past decade of public service with other people who are interested in running for public office or engaging in activism at the local and state levels, which is why he has been involved with the Bright Institute.
“I want to be able to share that information with folks who feel they are at a disadvantage,” he said. “I want to make sure they have the knowledge I didn't have prior to running. Whether it's how to deliver a speech or how to create a campaign team, I want to share that information instead of just keeping it for myself.”
“It's good to see more diversity in politics, and in every sector of society,” Hashim said.