This piece of news made me much happier than it should have. I mean, it’s only one guy running for one seat in the State Senate.
But in his single term in the House, Nader Hashim distinguished himself in a pretty damn strong freshman class. He stepped aside in 2020 but now he’s ready to return, and I’ve gotta say I’m rooting for him.
It’s not a full-throated endorsement because we don’t yet know who else is running for Windham County’s two Senate seats, at least one of which will be vacant (Becca Balint running for Congress, Jeanette White undeclared on a re-election bid). But I’m certain that Hashim would be a valuable addition to the staid, stuffy, senior-laden Senate.
Our Most Barnacle-Encrusted Deliberative Body is so tenure-heavy that an entire generation of promising politicians have seen their way blocked by this or that immovable object. It’s a very talented generation, too. I’ll name some names in a moment.
Seniority has its advantages, and I’m not ignoring them. We need lawmakers who’ve been around the block a few times and know how the process works. But you need new blood as well, and the Senate is far too heavy on the older side of the ledger.
The average age of our 30 Senators is 64. There are three under 40, one of whom (Kesha Ram Hinsdale) is leaving to run for Congress. We’ve got two more in their 40s, and one of those (Chris Pearson) is about to turn 50. There are five Senators in their 50s, and two in their early 60s.
Everybody else — eighteen of the 30 — is at or over 65.
When you look at the chairs of the 12 policy committees, it’s even more extreme. Average age: 73. There is one chair — count ’em, one — under age 65.
The Senate would be stronger, more creative, and more representative of Vermont if a bunch of those people would just go ahead and retire, already. They seem to think they’re irreplaceable. Trust me, they’re not.
Here in my hand, I have a list of 16 younger lawmakers and ex-lawmakers who would be fine additions to the Senate. It’s not an exhaustive list, and I’m sure I missed some good people. Also, there’s only a couple names from the Class of 2020 because I haven’t seen much of them in action. Haven’t been to the Statehouse since March 13, 2020.
These people aren’t all young, but they’re not old. They aren’t all liberal or progressive, either. Moderates and conservatives deserve younger representation, too. And because redistricting is still a work in progress, I can’t really match potential candidates with potential openings.
Hashim was on my list, as are two other ex-lawmakers: Kiah Morris and Dylan Giambatista. I doubt that either is even thinking about a run, but they’d be good. A couple names from the current freshman class: Taylor Small and Alyssa Black. Small has impressed in her first term; Black brings a wealth of life experience that has nothing to do with politics.
My apologies to other House frosh; I’m sure there are worthies I’m just not familiar with.
The rest, in no particular order:
Tim Briglin, a House veteran but still young by Senate standards. He’s done a fine job revitalizing the House Energy and Technology Committee. Becca White, smart, gregarious, works in renewable energy. They both hail from Windsor County, which has the most fossilized delegation of all: average age 71.
Lucy Rogers, UVM grad from Lamoille County, dedicated, intelligent, combines a young person’s perspective with deep knowledge of rural Vermont.
So do my two Republican entries: Patrick Seymour and Felisha Leffler. Seymour has the taciturn demeanor of an old guy playing checkers in the general store, but he’s as insightful as anyone in the building. Leffler is a bundle of energy who’d do much to liven up the sad little Republican caucus in the Senate.
And if there’s room for a Democrat to win in Franklin County, my choice would be Mike McCarthy, who’s risen rapidly in caucus ranks.
My Senatorial dream team has to include Emilie Kornheiser, an undeniable force for progressive policy.
Then there’s a pair of soft-spoken guys from southern Vermont: Caleb Elder and Logan Nicoll. And last but far from least, Kathleen James.
A couple of these people have told me, off the record, that they’re not interested in a run for the Senate. Most of them will never get a chance unless there’s a sudden wave of retirements, which long ago passed in my mind from expectation to fantasy. I’ll believe it when I see it.
And if I see it, boy, will I be pleased. The Senate desperately needs an injection of youth and energy.