Leonine elections report and committee outlook

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Leonine elections report and committee outlook

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 4:05pm -- tim

Leonine Public Affairs The blue wave that swept through the country was amplified in Vermont. While Senator Sanders and Congressman Welch were assured victory, Vermonters were still clearly motivated to voice their opinion of Trump’s presidency. Vermont had the highest turnout for a mid-term election in the state’s history and with no tightly contested statewide race it’s difficult to attribute the historical turnout to anything but the current national mood. Typically, in such a high turnout one would expect a fair number of unexpected outcomes to occur but that wasn’t really the case.

All incumbents for the statewide offices won handily. Republican Governor Phil Scott will be leading Vermont for another two years and voters voiced their support for him in overwhelming fashion. Preliminary results have him beating Democratic Challenger Christine Hallquist by 15 points. Progressive Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman won even more convincingly.

It was also no surprise that the Democrats gained a number of seats in the House. While it was slightly surprising that Democrats also gained a seat in the Senate, they already had a supermajority in that chamber.


That said, there are a number of procedural and political nuances created by an increase in Democratic control in the House that will impact the dynamic between Democratic leaders and Republican Governor Phil Scott. These changes include the following:

  • An increase in the ability of House Democrats to override a veto. This can be accomplished if Democratic leadership gets support from the Progressive caucus and/or support from some Independents.
  • Rule suspensions require a three-quarter majority vote in the House. Every year, particularly in the final hours of the session, the ability of the majority to suspend rules (or not) dictates the fate of multiple bills, from controversial policy bills to the budget. The Democrats have not passed this threshold but Republicans absences will need to be managed closely.
  • The margin of error for the Democrats has increased in the House. Democrats netted 12 seats in the 2018 election, giving Speaker Mitzi Johnson and majority leadership more flexibility to pass legislation without having to maintain full caucus support.

It’s not likely that the current dynamics will change any time soon. With President Trump back on the ballot in 2020, we should expect even higher Democratic turnout for that election.


House Democrats picked up a number of seats while House Republicans lost seats. The vote counts are still being finalized but the initial count shows the following breakdown with 100 votes needed to override a gubernatorial veto:

  • Democrats - 95
  • Republicans - 43
  • Progressives - 7
  • Independents - 5

So for example, if all 7 Progressives vote with the Democrats there are 102 votes to override a veto in the House.

The Progressives that won according to unofficial results are: Mollie Burke, Robin Chestnut-Tangerman, Brian Cina, Selene Colburn, Diana Gonzalez, Sandy Hass and Zachariah Ralph.

The Independents are: Terry Norris, Barbara Murphy, Ben Jickling, Laura Sibilia and Kelly Pajala. Many of these members lean to the middle or Republican.

Rep. Clem Bissonnette, D-Winooski, resigned his seat after winning the Democratic primary in August because he plans to move out of his district. However, Bissonnette’s name remained on the ballot and he was re-elected.  As a result he announced yesterday that he would resume serving for at least the 2019 legislative session.

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson won her reelection bid and will return as Speaker. Of the incumbents in leadership, Speaker Johnson’s race was considered to be the most competitive because it is a moderate district and she was heavily challenged by Republicans on issues like gun safety and minimum wage. In the end the race was close but the Speaker won by a greater margin than in previous elections.

The preliminary count shows there will be 40 new house members in 2019. These new members replace representatives who left for the following reasons:

  • 12 ran for reelection and lost their seats to members of another party (3 Democrats, 6 Republicans, 2 independents, 1 Progressive).
  • 25 retired (15 Democrats, 10 Republicans)
  • One death
  • 3 ran for higher office (all Republicans)


None of the incumbent Senators seeking re-election lost their seat. All of the changes in the Senate involved open seats. The post election makeup of the Senate is 24 Democrats (six of whom are Democrat/Progressive) and six Republicans. Senate Democrats picked up one seat when former member of the House and Senate – Cheryl Hooker of Rutland – won a seat formerly held by a Republican. 

In addition to Cheryl Hooker, there are four new Senators:

  • Sen. Claire Ayer, who did not seek re-election, was replaced by Ruth Hardy, the Executive Director of Emerge Vermont, an organization that recruits, trains and provides a network for Democratic women who want to run for office. 
  • Corey Parent, a two-term House member who represents the city of St. Albans replaced Sen. Carolyn Branagan-R, who did not seek re-election.
  • Andrew Perchlik, a state employee who manages the Clean Energy Development Fund, replaced Washington County Senator Francis Brooks-D, who retired.
  • Former House member James McNeil, R-Rutland, won a seat in Rutland.
Committee Legislator Party Returning? Lost/Retired
Agriculture and Forestry Rep. Carolyn W. Partridge, Chair D Y  
  Rep. Richard Lawrence, Vice Chair R N Retired
  Rep. John L. Bartholomew, Ranking Member D Y  
  Rep. Thomas Bock D Y  
  Rep. Susan Buckholz D N Retired
  Rep. Rodney Graham R Y  
  Rep. Mark Higley R Y  
  Rep. Philip Jay Hooper D Y  
  Rep. Terry Norris I Y  
  Rep. Paul N. Poirier I N Lost
  Rep. Harvey Smith R Y  
Appropriations Rep. Catherine Toll, Chair D Y  
  Rep. Peter J. Fagan, Vice Chair R Y  
  Rep. Kathleen C. Keenan, Ranking Member D N Retired
  Rep. Maureen Dakin D N Retired
  Rep. Martha Feltus R Y  
  Rep. Robert Helm R Y  
  Rep. Mary S. Hooper D Y  
  Rep. Bernard Juskiewicz R N Retired
  Rep. Diane Lanpher D Y  
  Rep. Matthew Trieber, Clerk D Y  
  Rep. David Yacovone D Y  
Commerce & Economic Development Rep. William Botzow II, Chair D N Retired
  Rep. Michael Marcotte, Vice Chair R Y  
  Rep. Jean O'Sullivan, Ranking Member D Y  
  Rep. Robert Frenier R N Retired
  Rep. Matthew Hill, Clerk D Y  
  Rep. Charles Kimbell D Y  
  Rep. Patricia McCoy R Y  
  Rep. Linda K. Myers R Y  
  Rep. Amy Sheldon D Y  
  Rep. Valerie A. Stuart D N Lost
  Rep. Linda Joy Sullivan D Y  
Corrections & Institutions Rep. Alice M. Emmons, Chair D Y  
  Rep. Charles "Butch" Shaw, Vice Chair R Y  
  Rep. Terence Macaig, Ranking Member D Y  
  Rep. Lynn Batchelor R Y  
  Rep. Paul Belaski D N Lost
  Rep. Daniel Connor D N Retired
  Rep. Marcia Martel R Y  
  Rep. Mary A. Morrissey R Y  
  Rep. Robin Scheu, Clerk D Y  
  Rep. Curt Taylor D Y  
  Rep. Donald Turner Jr. R N Ran - LG
Education Rep. David Sharpe, Chair D N Retired
  Rep. Albert Pearce, Vice Chair R N Retired
  Rep. Kathryn Webb, Ranking Member D Y  
  Rep. Scott Beck R Y  
  Rep. Peter Conlon, Clerk D Y  
  Rep. Lawrence Cupoli R Y  
  Rep. Dylan Giambatista D Y  
  Rep. Ben W. Joseph D N Lost
  Rep. Emily Long D Y  
  Rep. Christopher Mattos R Y  
  Rep. Alice Miller D N Retired
Energy & Technology Rep. Stephen Carr, Chair D N Retired
  Rep. Curtis McCormack, Vice Chair D Y  
  Rep. Corey Parent, Ranking Member R N Ran - Senate
  Rep. Robin Chesnut-Tangerman P Y  
  Rep. Robert Forguites, Clerk D Y  
  Rep. Laura Sibilia I Y  
  Rep. Warren Van Wyck R N Lost
  Rep. Michael Yantachka D Y  
General, Housing, and Military Affairs Rep. Helen Head, Chair D N Retired
  Rep. Thomas Stevens, Vice Chair D Y  
  Rep. Kevin "Coach" Christie D Y  
  Rep. Rachael Fields D N Retired
  Rep. Diana Gonzalez, Ranking Member D Y  
  Rep. Mary E. Howard, Clerk D Y  
  Rep. Edward Read I N Lost
  Rep. Heidi E. Scheuermann R Y  
  Rep. Brian Smith R Y  
  Rep. Vicki Strong R Y  
  Rep. Tommy Walz R Y  
Government Operations Rep. Maida Townsend, Chair D Y  
  Rep. Robert LaClair, Vice Chair R Y  
  Rep. Warren F. Kitzmiller, Ranking Member D Y  
  Rep. Jessica Brumsted D Y  
  Rep. Dennis J. Devereux R N Retired
  Rep. John Gannon D Y  
  Rep. Marcia Gardner, Clerk D Y  
  Rep. James Harrison R Y  
  Rep. Patti J. Lewis R N Retired
  Rep. Tristan Toleno D Y  
  Rep. Cynthia Weed P N Lost
Health Care Rep. William J. Lippert Jr., Chair D Y  
  Rep. Anne B. Donahue, Vice Chair R Y  
  Rep. Timothy Briglin, Ranking Member D Y  
  Rep. Annmarie Christensen D Y  
  Rep. Brian Cina P Y  
  Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas D Y  
  Rep. Elizabeth "Betsy" Dunn D N Retired
  Rep. Douglas Gage R N Retired
  Rep. Michael Hebert R N Retired
  Rep. Lori Houghton, Clerk D Y  
  Rep. Benjamin Jickling I Y  
Human Services Rep. Ann Pugh, Chair D Y  
  Rep. Sandy Haas, Vice Chair P Y  
  Rep. Francis McFaun, Ranking Member R Y  
  Rep. Marianna Gamache R Y  
  Rep. Brian Keefe R N Lost
  Rep. Michael Mrowicki D Y  
  Rep. Daniel Noyes D Y  
  Rep. Kelly Pajala I Y  
  Rep. Carl Rosenquist R Y  
  Rep. Joseph "Chip" Troiano D Y  
  Rep. Theresa Wood, Clerk D Y  
Judiciary Rep. Maxine Grad, Chair D Y  
  Rep. Charles Conquest, Vice Chair D Y  
  Rep. Thomas Burditt, Ranking Member R Y  
  Rep. Selene Colburn P Y  
  Rep. Eileen Dickinson R Y  
  Rep. Kimberly Jessup D Y  
  Rep. Martin LaLonde D Y  
  Rep. Ruqaiyah "Kiah" Morris D N Resigned
  Rep. Barbara Rachelson D Y  
  Rep. Gary Viens R N Retired
  Rep. Janssen Willhoit R N Ran - AG
Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Rep. David L. Deen, Chair D N Retired
  Rep. Mary Sullivan, Vice Chair D Y  
  Rep. Steve Beyor, Ranking Member R N Retired
  Rep. David Ainsworth R N Lost
  Rep. Paul Lefebvre R Y  
  Rep. James McCullough D Y  
  Rep. Carol Ode D Y  
  Rep. Trevor Squirrell, Clerk D Y  
  Rep. Thomas Terenzini R Y  
Transportation Rep. Patrick Brennan, Chair R Y  
  Rep. David Potter, Vice Chair D Y  
  Rep. Timothy R. Corcoran II, Ranking Member D Y  
  Rep. Robert Bancroft R Y  
  Rep. Clem Bissonette D Y  
  Rep. Mollie S. Burke P Y  
  Rep. Jill Krowinski D Y  
  Rep. Barbara Murphy I Y  
  Rep. Gary Nolan R N Lost
  Rep. Constance Quimby R Y  
  Rep. Brian K. Savage R Y  
Ways & Means Rep. Janet Ancel, Chair D Y  
  Rep. Samuel Young, Vice Chair D Y  
  Rep. William Canfield, Ranking Member R Y  
  Rep. Fred Baser R N Lost
  Rep. Cynthia Browning D Y  
  Rep. James Condon D N Died
  Rep. Johannah Donovan D Y  
  Rep. Gabrielle Lucke, Clerk D N Retired
  Rep. James Masland D Y  
  Rep. George W. Till D Y  
  Rep. Kurt Wright R N Lost

Source: Leonine Public Affairs, Montpelier, Election Review. November 2018. leoninepublicaffairs.com. Through a special arrangement with Leonine, Vermont Business Magazine republishes Leonine's legislative report on vermontbiz.com.