Balint, Madden win party nominations for U.S. House seat
Voters wait their turn to check in to cast their primary ballots at the Putney Fire Station on Aug. 9.

Balint, Madden win party nominations for U.S. House seat

Hashim and Harrison win Democratic Party nomination for county's two state Senate seats

BRATTLEBORO — With a ballot full of races that were as hot as the August sun beating down on the candidates and supporters outside polling places around Windham County, voters turned out in strong numbers to vote in their party primaries on Aug. 9.

In the marquee matchup for Vermont's lone U.S. House seat being vacated by longtime U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint of Brattleboro defeated Lt. Gov. Molly Gray to win the Democratic nomination.

She will face independent candidate Liam Madden of Rockingham, who won the Republican nomination in a three-way race that included conservative YouTuber Ericka Redic and former GOP congressional nominee Anya Tynio.

In Windham County, Nader Hashim of Dummerston and Wendy Harrison of Brattleboro won the Democratic nomination in a three-way race for the county's two open state Senate seats.

In the Republican primary for the two seats, the contest between Mark Coester of Westminster, Richard Kenyon of Brattleboro, and Richard Morton of Brattleboro was too close to call at press time.

And Newfane Democrat Brenda Siegel, unopposed on the ballot, is now officially the party nominee to face incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who easily turned aside challenges from Stephen Bellows and Peter Duval in the GOP primary.

'It's finally our time'

With 97 percent of the vote reported, Balint received 58,315 votes to Gray's 35,398. Louis Meyers, a physician from South Burlington, came in a distant third with 1,495 votes. Sianay Chase Clifford, a social worker and former congressional staffer who appeared on the ballot even though she dropped out of the race in July, finished fourth with 839 votes.

Speaking to about 200 supporters in the green space behind the Brooks House on Tuesday night, Balint expressed her gratitude.

“Look at what we've done tonight, look at what we've done for the first time,” Balint said. “For the first time in the history of Vermont, it looks like a woman and a member of the LGBTQ community is probably going to go to Congress.”

“It's finally our time, it's finally our time,” she continued.

“I've had people at every step on this campaign say, 'Are you sure you're up for this? Are you sure you can do this? You know, Congress isn't like the Legislature.'

“I am a scrappy little broad, and yes, I can do this,” Balint told her supporters. “And I will carry your hopes and your fears and your wishes with me.”

She said that she “will stay rooted in our communities. And I will fight and fight and fight for the most vulnerable among us. And I will be able to do it because I know you're gonna be right there with me.”

“We have to do this for climate justice, for universal health care for livable wages, for reproductive rights, for the safety of our queer and trans people in our communities. For racial equity, for commonsense gun laws, for a nation as good as its promise.”

In her concession statement, Gray said “that while my disappointment is profound, so too is my gratitude for this opportunity.”

She called it “a tough race with deeply qualified candidates making their case to Vermonters.”

“If someone had told me years ago that running for Congress was something that a farm kid from Newbury could do, I wouldn't have believed it,” Gray said. “I look forward to continuing to serve Vermonters throughout the remainder of my term as lieutenant governor, and I remain deeply thankful for the opportunity to serve this state I love so much.”

Balint will face Madden, an anti-war Marine veteran who identifies as an independent, in November.

Madden received 10,532 votes, while Redic got 8,054 votes and Tynio received 6,808 votes.

Welch easily won the Democratic nomination to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Patrick Leahy.

Welch received 87 percent of the vote, 84,747, while two challengers - Isaac Evans-Frantz (7,146) and Niki Thran (5,012)- finished a distant second and third, respectively.

Evans-Frantz, a progressive Democrat from Brattleboro, resisted the notion that Welch's claim to the seat would be a foregone conclusion. Thran is an emergency room doctor from Warren.

During an Election Day appearance outside Montpelier City Hall, Welch told VTDigger that he had a “bounce in [his] step” thanks to the U.S. Senate's passage of the Inflation Reduction Act over the weekend.

But the narrow one-vote margin by which it passed the Senate also served as “a real reminder of how crucial this election is for the U.S. Senate,” he said.

“We've got to keep Sen. Leahy's seat in the Democratic column,” Welch said. “If Mitch McConnell becomes the leader, which would happen if we [lose] the seat here in Vermont, day one would be about unraveling everything that was done on climate, everything that was done on prescription drug price negotiation. So it's a really crucial election.”

The Republican U.S. Senate primary pitted a former federal prosecutor against two newcomers. Conservative Gerald Malloy, a U.S. Army veteran from Weathersfield, won the nomination with 11,944 votes, Christina Nolan, who served as U.S. attorney for Vermont under President Donald Trump, got 10,634 votes and Myers Mermel, a commercial real estate banker from Manchester got 5,136 votes.

Local legislative contests

Windham County's most competitive legislative race were a pair of three-way contests on both the Democratic and Republican sides for the county's two state Senate seats being vacated by Balint and by retiring Sen. Jeanette White of Putney, respectively.

Hashim, a former state representative, and Harrison, a municipal manager who has led the towns of Rockingham and Vernon, took the top two spots on the Democratic Party ticket, with 5,552 votes and 4,925 votes, respectively.

Wichie Artu of Athens came in third, with 3,089 votes.

In the Republican primary, the contest among Coester, Kenyon, and Morton was still too close to call at midnight on Tuesday. Coester was leading with 664 votes, while Kenyon got 638 votes and Morton received 601 votes.

In the general election, independent candidate Tim Wessel of Brattleboro will face Hashim, Harrison, and the two Republican winners.

In other legislative races, Brattleboro's three current House members - Mollie Burke, Emilie Kornheiser, and Tristan Toleno - were all unopposed in the Democratic primary, and face no Republican challengers.

Incumbent state Rep. Sara Coffey, D-Guilford, was unopposed in the Democratic primary to represent Guilford and Vernon in Windham-1. She will face Nancy Gassett of Vernon, who ran unopposed in the Republican primary.

Another incumbent, state Rep. Mike Mrowicki, D-Putney, was also unopposed in the Democratic primary in his reconfigured Windham-4 district, which now comprises just Putney and Dummerston. He will face Lynn Kuralt of Dummerston, unopposed in the Republican primary.

His former district colleague, state Rep. Michelle Bos-Lun, D-Westminster, and fellow incumbent state Rep. Leslie Goldman, D-Rockingham, won their party's nomination for the new two-seat Windham-3 district, which also includes Rockingham and Brookline as well as Rockingham. Tyler Austin and Bonnie DePino, both of Westminster, won their races for the Republican nomination.

State Rep. Emily Long, D-Newfane, is unopposed in the Windham-5 Democratic primary, and no Republican candidates are running against the incumbent.

In the Windham-6 seat being vacated by state Rep. John Gannon, D-Wilmington, Tristan Roberts of Halifax was unopposed in the Democratic primary, while John Lyddy of Whitingham was unopposed for the Republican nomination.

Heather Chase of Chester is running unopposed as a Democrat in the new Windsor-Windham district that encompasses many the towns once represented by retiring Rep. Carolyn Partridge, D-Windham. No Republican candidates are running.

Partridge ran as write-in candidate for one of the two assistant judge positions in Windham County, a position that came up with the recent resignation of current assistant judge Patricia Duff. Results for write-in candidate were not immediately available.

Independent incumbent Laura Sibilia of Dover will seek re-election for a fifth term in the House in the general election, representing the newly created Windham-2 seat that comprises the towns of Dover, Jamaica, Somerset, Stratton, and Wardsboro. She is running unopposed.

Independent incumbent Kelly Pajala of Londonderry is also running unopposed in the Windham-Bennington-Windsor district (Weston, Londonderry, and Winhall).

Statewide races

Of Vermont's six statewide office holders, four are vacating their seats this term, and competition is stiff for three of those positions.

Four Democrats faced off in the primary to replace Lt. Gov. Molly Gray. Progressive/Democrat David Zuckerman, who served as both a legislator and a past lieutenant governor, won the nomination over state Rep. Kitty Toll, who chaired the House's powerful budget writing committee; state Rep. Charlie Kimbell, who has represented Woodstock for five years; and Patricia Preston, who serves as executive director of the Vermont Council on World Affairs.

The Republican primary for lieutenant governor was between Joe Benning, a vocal critic of Trump and a 12-year veteran of the Vermont Senate representing Caledonia County, and Gregory Thayer, a former Rutland City GOP chair who has aligned himself with Trump and attended the Stop the Steal rally in Washington, D.C, on Jan. 6, 2021.

In a race that some political observers called a referendum on the future of the Vermont Republican Party, Benning narrowly defeated Thayer, 14,388 to 11,962.

Three Democrats competed to become Vermont's next secretary of state after the retirement of longtime incumbent Jim Condos: Chris Winters, Condos's longtime deputy; Sarah Copeland Hanzas, a veteran lawmaker who chairs the House Government Operations Committee; and Montpelier's city clerk, John Odum.

At press time, the race was too close to call.

Two Democrats competed to become Vermont's next attorney general. Charity Clark, who served as chief of staff to former Attorney General T.J. Donovan, defeated Rory Thibault, the state's attorney for Washington County, to win the nomination, 57,262 to 27,903.

The incumbent attorney general, Susanne Young, had been appointed to complete the term of Donovan, who left office for the private sector in June.

Mike Pieciak, a Brattleboro native and the former commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, ran unopposed for state treasurer, as incumbent Beth Pearce did not run for re-election due to health issues.

In a prepared statement, Pieciak said that “I am humbled voters have put their trust in me, and I look forward to building a broad coalition to win in November and tackle the issues facing all Vermonters.”

He also thanked Pierce for her endorsement, and said he “will continue traveling across our state to hear directly from Vermonters about the issues affecting their families and communities.”

In the governor's race, Siegel, a progressive policy advocate, will face incumbent Republican Phil Scott, who has twice won re-election by wide margins.

In a prepared statement, Siegel said, “Vermont has made history. We will send a woman to Congress. We saw the most women, the most people of color, and the most LGBTQIA+ folks on the ballot than ever before.”

“That is a lot of history, and I'm proud to be a part of it,” she said, adding that “our movement is only just beginning.”

Early voting still popular

Unlike the last statewide election in 2020, when mail-in ballots were sent to every registered voter in Vermont, voters had to contact their town clerk to request a ballot for early voting.

Many did so.

According to the Vermont Secretary of State's office, about half of the ballots were cast ahead of the Aug. 9 primary date, with more than 42,000 Vermonters turning in their early ballots as of Aug. 8.

Even with early voting, local town clerks reported a steady stream of in-person voters throughout the day, drawn by the large number of contested races on the primary ballots.

Dummerston Town Clerk Laurie Frechette said her town had a 39.28 percent turnout - 619 ballots cast out of 1,576 registered voters - and that about half of those votes came from early ballots.

For the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 8, the secretary of state's office will send early ballots to all registered voters.

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