Politics

What you need to know for Vermont’s 2022 primary election

Vermont Democrats, Republicans and Progressives are holding primary elections on Tuesday. Photo by Kevin O’Connor/VTDigger

Vermonters head to the polls Tuesday for one of the most competitive primary elections in recent memory. Once votes are counted, general election matchups will be set for dozens of key races, including Vermont’s first open congressional seat in 16 years, four open statewide offices and a range of legislative contests. 

The historic level of turnover stands to reshape Vermont’s representation in January — and with Democrats heavily favored for several roles, many contests could effectively be decided this week.

Here’s what you need to know.

Voting on Tuesday

All U.S. citizens who will be 18 or older on Nov. 8, 2022, are eligible to vote in the primary.

You must be registered to vote in Vermont, but you can still register at your polling place on Tuesday.

Visit the Secretary of State’s Office’s My Voter Page to check your registration status and find your polling place. Polls open at various times from 5-10 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. 

By Friday, nearly 40,000 Vermonters had already voted using early or absentee ballots. If you requested an early or absentee ballot but haven’t yet returned it to your town clerk, bring it to your polling place on Tuesday.

Vermont has an open primary. You can choose whether to complete a Democratic, Republican or Progressive ballot, but you must pick only one to complete.

Learn more about how to vote in our 2022 Election Guide.

Congressional shuffle

Vermont remains the last state in the U.S. that has never sent a woman to Congress. That’s poised to change next year.

Molly Gray, the state’s lieutenant governor, and Becca Balint, the president pro tempore of the Vermont Senate, have emerged as frontrunners in the Democratic primary for Vermont’s sole U.S. House seat. They also face South Burlington physician Louis Meyers.

  • Gray has touted her Vermont roots, and her experience working in Washington, D.C., as preparation to represent the state. She’s also earned the support of key politicos, including former Govs. Madeleine Kunin and Howard Dean, as well as U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
  • Balint has leaned on her reputation as a consensus builder in the Vermont Legislature, as well as her more progressive stances, in her pitch to voters. Among others, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has backed her throughout the campaign’s final weeks.
  • Meyers has targeted more moderate voters, offering a focus on health policy and often aligning himself with the stances of the Biden administration.
  • Sianay Chase Clifford, a social worker and former congressional staffer, will appear on the ballot even though she dropped out of the race late last month.

On the Republican ticket, accountant and conservative YouTuber Ericka Redic faces former GOP congressional nominee Anya Tynio, as well as Liam Madden, an anti-war Marine veteran who identifies as an independent.

The open seat is a ripple effect of Leahy’s announcement last fall that he would not seek a ninth term in the U.S. Senate. Longtime U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., quickly announced his bid for Leahy’s seat, and now faces two challengers: Isaac Evans-Frantz, a progressive Democrat from Brattleboro who has resisted the notion that Welch’s claim to the seat is a foregone conclusion, and Niki Thran, an emergency room doctor from Warren.

The Republican U.S. Senate primary pits a former federal prosecutor against two newcomers. Christina Nolan, who served as U.S. attorney for Vermont under President Trump, entered the race in February and was widely considered the frontrunner. But one recent poll indicated strong support for the more conservative Gerald Malloy, a U.S. Army veteran from Weathersfield. They also face Myers Mermel, a commercial real estate banker from Manchester.

Statewide races

Of Vermont’s six statewide office holders, four are vacating their seats this term — or already have — and competition is stiff for three of those positions.

  • Four Democrats are facing off in the primary to replace Lt. Gov. Molly Gray. Most are emphasizing their years of experience in the Statehouse: David Zuckerman served as both a legislator and a past LG, Kitty Toll chaired the House’s powerful budget writing committee and Rep. Charlie Kimbell has represented Woodstock for five years. Patricia Preston, who serves as executive director of the Vermont Council on World Affairs, says she offers voters “a new perspective.”
  • The Republican primary for lieutenant governor, by one candidate’s estimation, offers a referendum on the future of the Vermont GOP. Joe Benning, a vocal critic of Trump and a 12-year veteran of the Vermont Senate representing Caledonia County, is facing Gregory Thayer, a former Rutland City GOP chair who has aligned himself with Trump and attended the Stop the Steal rally in Washington, D.C, on Jan. 6, 2021.
  • Three Democrats are competing to become Vermont’s next secretary of state after the retirement of longtime incumbent Jim Condos. Condos has endorsed his deputy, Chris Winters, for the role. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, a veteran lawmaker who chairs the House Government Operations Committee, and John Odum, Montpelier’s city clerk, are hoping to overcome the incumbent’s influence.
  • Two Democrats are competing to become Vermont’s next attorney general after TJ Donovan left office in June and Susanne Young was appointed to complete his term. Charity Clark, Donovan’s former chief of staff, has said she plans to focus on managing and leading the roughly 150-person office. Rory Thibault, the state’s attorney for Washington County, talks up his hands-on prosecutorial time in the courtroom and leading criminal investigations.

Mike Pieciak, the former commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, is running unopposed for state treasurer as incumbent Beth Pearce prepares to step down due to health issues.

Tuesday’s results will also set the general election matchup for this year’s governor’s race. Policy advocate Brenda Siegel is the presumptive Democratic nominee, while incumbent Phil Scott — who has twice won reelection by wide margins — faces Stephen Bellows and Peter Duval in the Republican primary.

See VTDigger’s guide to candidates in statewide races.

Legislative contests

Roughly a third of Vermont’s legislators are not running for reelection this year, opening up seats across the state. Paired with the effects of the once-a-decade reapportionment process, battleground districts are already emerging for the general election, in which Democrats aim to secure a veto-proof supermajority in both chambers and Republicans hope to pick up seats in new regions.

Turnover is most evident in the 30-member state Senate, where at least 10 lawmakers won’t return. Competitive primaries include three in Chittenden County, where a six-member mega-district was split into three new districts this year.

  • In the Chittenden North district, Irene Wrenner and Brian Shelden, two often-at-odds Essex Democrats, will compete to face Rep. Leland Morgan, the presumptive Republican nominee, in November.
  • In the Chittenden Central district, which includes northern Burlington, five Democrats — Dawn Ellis, Martine Gulick, Erhard Mahnke, Phil Baruth and Tanya Vyhovsky — are competing for three seats. Only one is an incumbent, and the district is a key battleground for Progressives to maintain power.
  • In the Chittenden Southeast district, five Democrats — incumbent Sens. Thomas Chittenden of South Burlington, Ginny Lyons of Williston and Kesha Ram Hinsdale of Shelburne, plus Steve May and Lewis Mudge — are competing for three slots on the general election ballot. 
  • The Windham district will see competitive primaries on both the Democratic and Republican sides. Three Democrats — Wichie Artu, Wendy Harrison and Nader Hashim — are running for their party’s two nominations, while three Republicans — Mark Coester, Richard Kenyon and Richard Morton — are running for theirs.
  • In Washington County, the retirement of longtime Progressive/Democratic incumbent Anthony Pollina has led to a competitive Democratic primary for the district’s three seats. Sens. Ann Cummings and Andrew Perchlik are up against Anne Watson, Jared Duval and Jeremy Hansen. 

Find out who’s running for House and Senate in your district using our address lookup tool.

In another closely watched race, Chittenden County’s embattled state’s attorney, Sarah George, is facing the toughest political challenge of her career in this year’s Democratic primary. George, who has carved out a reputation as a criminal justice reformer, faces Ted Kenney, a Williston attorney and selectboard member who has earned the support of law enforcement after criticizing many of the incumbent’s policies.

Visit VTDigger’s 2022 Election Guide to learn more about the candidates. And head to vtdigger.org when the polls close at 7 p.m. Tuesday for live coverage of the results.

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Mike Dougherty

About Mike

Mike Dougherty is a senior editor at VTDigger leading the politics team. He is a DC-area native and studied journalism and music at New York University. Prior to joining VTDigger, Michael spent two years as a program coordinator for the Vermont Humanities Council. Before moving to Vermont in 2015, he spent seven years managing recording operations for the oral history nonprofit StoryCorps, assisted Magnum photographer Susan Meiselas, and contributed to the Brooklyn-based alt-weekly L Magazine.

Email: [email protected]

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