Toward a more (capital “D”) Democratic Senate

Suddenly there’s one less Republican in the State Senate.

Sen. Diane Snelling announced Tuesday her resignation from the Senate to take a key state environmental job.

… Snelling… will be taking the job as chair of the Natural Resources Board, which oversees the regional commissions that rule on Act 250 development applications.

Gov. Shumlin chose former State Senator Helen Riehle to serve the rest of Snelling’s term. Riehle will not seek a full term in November.

Snelling has been in the Senate for 14 years. She’d been noncommittal on the subject of running for re-election, so maybe this move shouldn’t be a surprise. And chairing the Natural Resources Board is a prestigious job in line with her interests, but her departure is bad news for her party.

Snelling has been the only Republican in the six-member Chittenden County delegation; she has consistently won re-election in that liberal hotbed, while every other Republican has badly trailed the field. Republicans’ chances of retaining her seat? We’re talking snowballs in Hell.

Two years ago, Republican Joy Limoge put together a well-funded campaign for Senate. It was an extremely bad year for Democrats. And still, she came nowhere near cracking the top six. This year would be a whole lot harder for a Republican.

Republicans will also have to defend a seat that would have been pretty safe, if only Norm McAllister was capable of self-control. This week, two solid Democrats entered the race for Senate in Franklin County: former Senator Sara Kittell, and Denise Smith, head of the Friends of Northern Lake Champlain and a graduate of Emerge Vermont’s training program for women candidates.

Incumbent Dustin Degree is running for re-election, and State Rep. Carolyn Branagan will run for a Republican ballot slot. The wild card is McAllister himself, who could very well file for re-election. Franklin County is shaping up to be a battleground this year; but absent the McAllister scandal, Republicans would have had a great shot at retaining both seats. Now, they’ll have to work hard just to hold serve.

Back in Chittenden, Democrats are also licking their chops over the departure of Progressive/Democrat David Zuckerman, who’s running for lieutenant governor. It’ll be very difficult for the Progs to retain his seat.

Indeed, it’s almost certain that Chittenden County’s Senate delegation will be all Democrats in the coming biennium, and that the Dems will add to their sizable Senate majority. Republicans, meanwhile, will have to struggle just to hold on to what they’ve got.


2 thoughts on “Toward a more (capital “D”) Democratic Senate

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      She’s a Republican and an experienced lawmaker. On that score, an ideal choice at this point in the legislative cycle. Her appointment did prevent the Republicans from choosing nominees who might have run in November, and hence would have had the advantage of incumbency. So the Republicans do get hosed a bit, through no fault of Riehle’s.


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