Empty Chairs: Even More Than I Thought

It looks like 2022 will be The Year of Turnover. Not only in statewide offices, but also in the Legislature. Earlier today I wrote a post about the House losing five committee chairs; since then, I’ve learned of three more. Plus one more Senate chair. And other prominent figures as well.

The departing chairs: Carolyn Partridge of House Agriculture, Maxine Grad of Judiciary, Tim Briglin of House Energy and Technology, and Michael Sirotkin of Senate Economic Development.

Let’s take the House first. Even if there are no more retirements, nearly half of all House committees will have new chairs come January. Partridge will have served 24 years in the House and 12 as chair of Agriculture (the committee’s name has changed multiple times but always included Ag). Grad has 12 years in the House, eight as Judiciary chair. Briglin has been in the House for eight years and chaired E&T for four.

Add that to our previous toll of lost experience, and you get 92 years of departing chair tenure and 153 years in the House. The former figure is the one I’m focused on here; if you add all the House departures, you’ll get a much, much higher number for the latter.

Like, for instance, Peter Fagan of Rutland. He’s been a crucial piece of the Appropriations Committee for a long time, a conservative who works well with the Democratic majority. Fourteen years in the House, eight as Vice Chair or Ranking Member of Approps. He will be missed. But again, I’m focused on chairs here.

It’s a really good thing that Jill Krowinski plans to return as Speaker, assuming she gets re-elected (she will) and has the support of the House Democratic Caucus (she does). 2023 would be a bad time to have to break in another speaker.

And if you want to talk Machiavelli, this also gives Krowinski huge influence over the makeup of caucus and committee leadership. In the words of Mel Brooks, “It’s good to be the king.”

It’s looking like the total number of departures in the House could be one-third of its membership — or even more. We won’t know the final count until the major-party filing deadline passes on May 26.

The Senate turnover tally now stands at ten, precisely one-third of the chamber. In addition to Sirotkin, Alice Nitka and Cheryl Hooker also departing. And in my first story I forgot Joe Benning, who’s running for lieutenant governor.

As it stands now, that’s a less seismic change in the Senate than in the House. The departing senators include some relatively young members. If we see another couple of chairs retire, which is definitely not out of the question, the turnover in the Senate would be comparable in impact to the House’s.

Of course, the Senate will be looking for a new Pro Tem. That’ll be fun. A couple months ago, I wrote about the paucity of top-level talent available to succeed Becca Balint. Now it looks a little bit more dire, and there will be more decisions for the next Pro Tem to make. I identified a mere six possible candidates for Pro Tem; one of them, Chris Pearson, is not seeking re-election. That leaves, by my reckoning, Phil Baruth, Christopher Bray, Brian Campion, Ruth Hardy, and Andrew Perchlik.

Yeah, it’s gonna be a very different Legislature next year. And I suspect we are not yet done with the retirements.


3 thoughts on “Empty Chairs: Even More Than I Thought

  1. repannpugh

    John- FYI Gaye Symington appointed me as Chair in 1995 ( I think that’s when she became speaker )…so it’s longer than 10 years Ann


    Rep. Ann Pugh Chair, House Human Services Committee Chair, Child Protection Oversight Committee


  2. StuLindberg

    I can’t imagine why so many career, “progreSSive” politicians would want to leave at the peak of their power. They have finally achieved Bernie’s socialist utopia. Why not stick around to bask in the glory of record crime rates, a failed education system, a collapsed health care system, a raging heroin/fentanyl epidemic, no housing, a staggering labor shortage and hyperinflation. What’s not to enjoy?


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