Two incumbent Senators fail to make the environmental grade

Yet another slate of endorsements graces my inbox today. This time, from Vermont Conservation Voters, the nonprofit organization that lobbies the Legislature and educates voters on its environmental priorities.

VCV’s list focused on contested primaries in the House and Senate, “looking for candidates with demonstrated leadership on environmental issues,” according to VCV political director Lauren Hierl.

My cynical eye immediately turned to the absences on the list, and there are a couple of notable ones.

The group is not endorsing incumbent Democratic Senators Phil Baruth and Alice Nitka.

In the six-seat Chittenden County district, VCV made five endorsements: the other three incumbents (Ashe, Lyons, Sirotkin) and two challengers, Dawn Ellis and Chris Pearson. In two-seat three-seat Windsor County, VCV’s nod went to incumbent Dick McCormack and State Rep. Alison Clarkson, both Democrats.

(Correction: it’s a three-seat district. The third seat is being vacated by John Campbell; Democrat Conor Kennedy is also running.)

Bear in mind that VCV set a high bar for this round of endorsements — a score of 90 percent or better on its Environmental Scorecard.

Baruth’s main shortcoming in VCV’s eyes was his work after adjournment on S.230, the energy siting bill. During the session, the Senate made some last-minute changes that sparked a Shumlin veto.

“We were trying to pass an amended version,” says Hierl. “He worked for a veto override.

“He’s been a champ on other environmental issues, and he could get our endorsement in the general election.”

(The amended version, S.260, did pass and was signed into law.)

Pearson passed muster with a high ranking from his service in the House. As for Ellis, “We worked with Dawn in the 2014 campaign, and talked with her at length this year. She stood out to us as a great environmental leader.”

Hierl notes that it’s tougher to evaluate candidates who haven’t been lawmakers because they have no voting record.  VCV distributed a questionnaire to candidates, and is still poring over the responses. More endorsements may come before August 9.

As for Nitka, she’s consistently failed to clear VCV’s high bar. On our [2016] environmental scorecard, she got 70%,” says Hierl. “Her lifetime score is about 73%. Alison Clarkson’s score was over 90%.”

The latest VCV endorsements are below. As noted earlier, there may be a few additions before primary day, but otherwise VCV will wait until the major-party tickets are set. Also, VCV is not making endorsements in statewide races until after the primary.


•       Christopher Pearson (Chittenden)

•       Ginny Lyons (Chittenden)

•       Michael Sirotkin (Chittenden)

•       Tim Ashe (Chittenden)

•       Dawn Ellis (Chittenden)

•       Anthony Pollina (Washington)

•       Ann Cummings (Washington)

•       Alison Clarkson (Windsor)

•       Dick McCormack (Windsor)



•       Amy Sheldon (Addison-1)

•       Dave Sharpe (Addison-4)

•       Mitzi Johnson (Grand Isle-Chittenden)

•       Avram Patt (Lamoille-Washington)

•       Jim Masland (Windsor-Orange-2)

•       Tim Briglin (Windsor-Orange-2)


2 thoughts on “Two incumbent Senators fail to make the environmental grade

  1. odum

    (jaw drop)… they didn’t endorse Baruth, who has a 93% lifetime score, and endorsed someone without a record over him? Ho – lee – mo – lee.

    I guess they’re taking for granted that he’s a true-blue ally (ironically). If he were a stereotypical politician, VCV and VNRC would find themselves seriously frozen out (and as Majority Leader, that could amount to some ginormous freezing).

    That aint just a snub, its a full-on kick in the gonads.

    Fortunately for them, it’s clear Baruth is a true blue ally. If you’re gonna take someone for granted and hope you don’t get burned, he’s yer guy I guess.

  2. Pingback: VCV-VNRC’s Psychotic Break |

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