Tag Archives: Nader Hashim

The State Senate Approaches a Demographic Tipping Point

Seems like I’ve been waiting forever for the Vermont Senate to undergo a demographic shift. Every two years there’s been talk of a retirement wave, but it never materializes. Senators consider stepping aside, then realize they’re indispensable. (They’re not.) And the voters rarely eject an incumbent except in cases of overt criminality (Norm McAllister) or advanced senescence (Bill Doyle).

The shift has been painfully incremental until this year, when almost one-third of all senators decided to bow out. The nine incomers are younger, five of them are women, and one is a person of color: Nader Hashim joins Kesha Ram Hinsdale and Randy Brock as the three non-white members of the upper chamber.

(The tiny Republican caucus managed to get older and no less male. Its two youngest members, Corey Parent and Joshua Terenzini, will be replaced by a couple of old white men.)

Got more numbers to plow through, but here’s the bottom line. The Senate is on the verge of a historic shift, but it’s happening in slow motion. We might reach the tipping point in two years’ time. We’re not quite there yet.

There are still plenty of tenured members in positions of power. They account for most of the committee chairs. But only — “only” — eight of the 30 senators will be 70 or older. At least 13 will be under 65, which doesn’t sound like a lot but in the Senate it definitely is.

The incoming Senate President Pro Tem, Phil Baruth, straddles the age divide. He’s only — “only” — 60. But he’s entering his sixth two-year term, so he’s familiar with the Senate and the elders are comfortable enough with him to make him their leader. As a senator he’s been a strong policy advocate unafraid to ruffle feathers, but as Pro Tem he’ll know he can’t push his caucus too far too fast.

There are the preliminiaries. Now let’s dive in.

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Upstairs, Downstairs in State Senate Campaigns

This, ladies and germs, is Jared Duval, the undisputed king of fundraising among candidates for the Vermont Senate. Best known as executive director of the Energy Action Network, a nonprofit that encompasses business, nonprofits and government to address energy issues and climate change, Duval is now running for Senate in the Washington County district. And as of the July 1 reporting deadline, he had raised $23,629.

He outraised the number-two finisher in the entire state by nearly $10,000.

In fact, only six Senate candidates have managed to tally five figures. And one of those, Erhard Mahnke of the Chittenden Central district, donated $10,000 to his own campaign, so he barely counts.

None of the other five-figure fundraisers are from Chittenden, Vermont’s most populous and most prosperous county. Two are from Washington County: Duval and Montpelier Mayor Anne Watson, who raised $10,815. (Bit of an asterisk there; Watson transferred $1,735 from her mayoral campaign fund and her husband Zach Watson, fka one-term state Rep. Zach Ralph, donated $1,580. Even so, she has substantial support.)

Two more are from Windham: Wichie Artu with $14,027 and Nader Hashim with $12,213. The other Parent Warbucks is a real surprise: Self-styled “Agripublican” and unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate John Klar has raised $12,019 in his bid to unseat perpetual incumbent Democrat Mark MacDonald in the Orange district. While Klar topped five figures, MacDonald didn’t even file a report. I doubt that he will be much troubled by Klar’s surprising bankroll. Still, it’s a considerable feat for a marginal political figure to raise more than $12,000 for a Senate race. It’s a hell of a lot better than any other Republican Senate candidate has done.

These few success stories aside, the narrative in most Senate campaigns is “How can we do more with less?” The money is, indeed, thin on the ground.

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Big Money in the Democratic LG Race (And Other Campaign Finance Notes)

The big takeaway from the first campaign finance deadline of 2022 (for state candidates only, not federal) is that the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor is going to be a heated affair. All four candidates raised respectable amounts of money, with a couple of them clearly rising to the top.

Disclaimer: Fundraising is not the only measure of a campaign’s health. Organization and grassroots appeal are also key, but it’s very hard to measure those and very simple to read financial filings, So we look for the missing keys under the streetlight where we can see.

Leading the pack is former state Rep. Kitty Toll, widely believed to be the choice of most party regulars. She raised $118,000, which is quite a lot for this early in an LG race. She had 323 separate donors, 227 of them giving less than $100 apiece.

Coming in a sollid second is former LG David Zuckerman, with $92,000. Patricia Preston, head of the Vermont Council on World Affairs, raised $89,000 with a big fat asterisk: $23,000 of her total came from in-kind donations. That’s a very high total, and it means she has far less cash on hand than it appears at first glance. Rep. Charlie Kimbell is a distant fourth with $44,000 raised.

You want deets? We got deets.

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More of This, Please

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.

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