Decision 2022

Women Aim to Make History After Strong Showing in Vt. Primaries

November's general election will feature several women running for prominent offices

NBC Universal, Inc.

Advocates for getting more underrepresented people involved in politics are calling the results of Tuesday’s state primaries in Vermont potentially history-making.

Vermont is the only state in the country to have not yet sent a woman to represent it in Congress. It only has a three-person Congressional delegation, which has been unchanged for more than 15 years.

However, the upcoming retirement of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and the decision by Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, to run for Senate, have created an opening in the House that a woman now hopes to fill.

"We built a really broad coalition," noted Becca Balint, the current leader of the Vermont Senate who secured the Democratic nomination for U.S. House Tuesday night.

Balint, who thanked her supporters and campaign staff for Tuesday's win, aims to make history twice, by becoming both Vermont’s first woman to serve in Congress, and its first LGBTQ representative there.

"I think it’s important to have more women there in the room making decisions on this legislation, whether it’s reproductive rights, whether it’s housing, whether it’s wages," Balint said Wednesday in an interview with NECN & NBC10 Boston. "Gender is an important component of these political conversations and the work we have ahead."

Balint still faces a general election contest in November.

Liam Madden won the Republican primary Tuesday, but describes himself on his website as an Independent who courted a range of political support. Barbara Nolfi earned the Progressive nomination for U.S. House.

Democratic women also clinched their party’s nomination for attorney general, with Charity Clark, and for secretary of state, with Sarah Copeland Hanzas.

"I was really pleased to come out ahead," Copeland Hanzas said of Tuesday's election results.

"I’m stepping on glass because we shattered the glass ceiling," Clark said, repeating what she told supporters the night of her primary win.

Clark would be Vermont’s first woman to be elected attorney general, though there has been a woman appointed to that job: Vermont’s current AG, Suzanne Young. Clark is promising to spotlight the scourge of domestic violence in the state, should she prevail in the general election in November.

"I don’t think it’s getting enough attention, so I’m looking forward to January when I can change that," Clark said of domestic violence.

Elijah Bergman won the Progressive nomination for AG, and frequent candidate H. Brooke Paige won the Republican nomination.

Copeland Hanzas told NECN & NBC10 Boston she wants to see the secretary of state’s office of professional regulation do more to address harassment in workplaces around Vermont.

"I think it really does take women in leadership positions to call those things out and to really bring the focus and attention to ways of preventing that kind of unwanted behavior," Copeland Hanzas said, adding she would be a strong voice for preserving democracy and ensuring Vermonters’ access to voting.

H. Brooke Paige also won the Republican nomination for secretary of state. Robert Millar secured the Progressive Party nomination for the role.

Another woman secured the Democrats’ nomination for governor of Vermont.

Brenda Siegel told NECN and NBC10 Boston that while the incumbent governor, Republican Phil Scott, is perceived as popular, she sees weaknesses. She noted that over the next several months she will work to introduce herself to Vermonters and demonstrate that she can lead in areas such as environmental policy and uplifting low- and middle-income folks.

“What is stopping us from having the adequate amount of housing in this state?” Siegel asked rhetorically, indicating one of the areas she will focus on. “What is stopping us from healing the overdose crisis? What is stopping us from making our communities and our families and friends safer, to be able to thrive? And that is what’s going to convince Vermonters that it is time for a change.”

Siegel said she will work to attract support from Democrats, Progressives, Independents, and even Republicans in the weeks and months ahead.

Gov. Scott had an easy path to victory in securing his party’s continued support in the gubernatorial primary. He didn’t even really campaign, despite challenges by lesser-known candidates.

"I’m a moderate," Gov. Scott said in an interview with NECN & NBC10 Boston’s Vermont affiliate, NBC 5 News. "I’m a centrist. It’s something a lot of people appreciate about me and being governor — they know what they’re getting. And it’s something I’ve been doing throughout my whole political life."

Scott and Siegel both indicated they are grateful for the support of voters and their campaign staffs, and said they look forward to spirited campaigns in the months ahead.

Susan Hatch Davis won the Progressive Party nomination for Vermont governor.

Amanda Hunter, the executive director of the non-partisan Barbara Lee Family Foundation, studies opportunities and barriers for women seeking elected office.

Hunter said she sees strong showings by women in Vermont’s primaries as a marker of significant progress.

"A lot of times, voters just can’t picture a woman in certain roles because they simply haven’t seen it," Hunter explained. "So the more women who are serving in high-profile statewide roles, the more stereotypes will be taken down."

Hunter noted that often, female candidates face additional scrutiny compared to male candidates, for their appearance, tone of voice, and for their families. Additionally, they often have to prove their accomplishments more vigorously than their male counterparts do, Hunter lamented. She added she is optimistic that, over time, societal barriers like those will change for the better.

Rep. Welch secured the Democrats’ nomination for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Leahy. Republican voters chose Army veteran Gerald Malloy as their pick for Senate. The third name in that race will be Martha Abbott, the Progressive Party’s nominee.

While Tuesday’s primary results featured several women succeeding in statewide races, it wasn’t universally a good night for Vermont women.

Democrats vying for the nomination for lieutenant governor fell short in that race, and Republican women could not secure wins for nominations for U.S. House or U.S. Senate.

Contact Us