Windham County Senate field rises to 6 candidates with party switch

@finitecapacity and Facebook/<a href=https://vtdigger.org/2022/08/17/windham-county-senate-field-rises-to-6-candidates-with-party-switch/"https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=1424685284621436&set=pcb.1424685674621397%22>Todd Hemingway</a></p> " data-medium-file="https://vtdigger.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/mark-coester-colchester-parade-300x228.jpg" data-large-file="https://vtdigger.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/mark-coester-colchester-parade-610x464.jpg" width="610" height="464" src='data:image/svg+xml,%3Csvg%20xmlns=%22http://www.w3.org/2000/svg%22%20viewBox=%220%200%20610%20464%22%3E%3C/svg%3E' data-src="https://vtdigger.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/mark-coester-colchester-parade-610x464.jpg" alt="" class="lazyload wp-image-398066" data-srcset="https://vtdigger.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/mark-coester-colchester-parade-610x464.jpg 610w, https://vtdigger.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/mark-coester-colchester-parade-300x228.jpg 300w, https://vtdigger.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/mark-coester-colchester-parade-125x95.jpg 125w, https://vtdigger.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/mark-coester-colchester-parade-768x584.jpg 768w, https://vtdigger.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/mark-coester-colchester-parade-1536x1169.jpg 1536w, https://vtdigger.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/mark-coester-colchester-parade-2048x1558.jpg 2048w" data-sizes="(max-width: 610px) 100vw, 610px" />
Westminster logger Mark Coester marched in Colchester’s Fourth of July parade with a flag associated with authoritarianism and a “Pepe the Frog” drawing linked to white nationalists. Photos via Twitter/@finitecapacity and Facebook/Todd Hemingway

The unofficial top Republican vote-getter in the Windham County Senate primary, disavowed by Vermont GOP leaders for displaying fascist and alt-right symbols, is switching his party affiliation and running as an independent for one of two open seats in the November general election.

Westminster logger Mark Coester received 542 votes in last week’s Republican primary, followed by Brattleboro tax preparer Richard Kenyon with 539 votes and retired Brattleboro banker Richard Morton with 528 votes, according to unofficial results posted Wednesday on the secretary of state’s website.

State GOP officials had hoped Windham County voters would favor the similar-looking names of Richard “Rick” Kenyon and Richard “Rick” Morton after Coester marched in Colchester’s Fourth of July parade with a flag associated with authoritarianism and a “Pepe the Frog” drawing linked to white nationalists.

“I’m encouraging every Republican to vote for the other two established Republicans in that primary,” state GOP Chair Paul Dame told VTDigger last month.

But that did not stop people in the district — which includes all Windham County towns except Londonderry, Stratton and Wilmington — from voting for Coester, who also filed a petition to run for U.S. Senate as an independent. 

State law, however, prohibits anyone from appearing on the ballot as an independent if they are a candidate of an organized political party. And so Coester is turning to his Plan B. He filed a petition before this month’s deadline to run for the county post as an independent.

As a result, Coester will drop his Republican status in the Windham race and compete as an independent for both the county and U.S. Senate, he said.

November’s Windham Senate ballot will include six candidates for two seats that only Democrats have won in the past 30 years.

Two will run as Democrats: Primary winners Nader Hashim, a former Dummerston state representative and current law clerk, and Wendy Harrison, a Brattleboro-based traveling municipal manager.

Two will run as Republicans: Kenyon and Morton, whom the Windham County Republican Committee voted to name as its official candidates with Coester’s switch.

And two will run as independents: Coester and Brattleboro Selectboard member Tim Wessel.

This year is the first in 20 years that both Windham seats are open, as incumbent Becca Balint has stepped down as Senate president pro tempore to run for Congress, and colleague Jeanette White is retiring after serving in the 30-member chamber for two decades.

Missing out on the latest scoop? Sign up for Final Reading for a rundown on the day's news in the Legislature.


Did you know VTDigger is a nonprofit?

Our journalism is made possible by member donations. If you value what we do, please contribute and help keep this vital resource accessible to all.

Kevin O'Connor

Send us your thoughts

VTDigger is now accepting letters to the editor. For information about our guidelines, and access to the letter form, please click here.


Recent Stories

Thanks for reporting an error with the story, "Windham County Senate field rises to 6 candidates with party switch"
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.