Charity Clark clinches Democratic nomination for Vermont attorney general

Charity Clark defeated Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Updated at 1:29 a.m.

Charity Clark won the Democratic nomination for Vermont attorney general on Tuesday, positioning her to become the first woman elected to the state’s top law enforcement job.

The former chief of staff in the AG’s office defeated Rory Thibault, the Washington County state’s attorney, in a primary that hinged more on the candidates’ respective resumes than on substantive differences of policy.

Thibault told VTDigger just before 10 p.m. that he had conceded to Clark. Shortly thereafter, Clark declared victory at a gathering of roughly 40 supporters at Hotel Vermont in Burlington. 

"I am stepping on glass because we shattered the glass ceiling at the attorney general's office tonight," Clark said to cheers from the crowd.

She called her victory Tuesday night "exciting" and "thrilling" and spoke of moving forward to November’s general election. 

With one precinct left to report at 1:30 Wednesday morning, Clark was leading Thibault by 58% to 28%, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Republican H. Brooke Paige, a perennial candidate who often runs for several offices, and Progressive Elijah Bergman, were running unopposed for their party’s respective nominations for attorney general. 

The winner of the general election would succeed Susanne Young, who was appointed to the post in June after then-Attorney General TJ Donovan resigned

Asked in an interview after her speech what she attributed her resounding win in the race to, Clark responded, "My background and experience of almost eight years at the attorney general's office combined with a fresh perspective of a woman I think really resonated with voters." 

As she wrapped up her speech, Clark said it was time to start celebrating.

“We begin with Lizzo’s ‘It’s about damn time,’” Clark said, referring to the party’s playlist.

Vermont’s attorney general oversees a staff of about 150 people and is the leader of what some call the state’s largest law firm. The office includes several divisions, ranging from consumer protection to criminal prosecution.

Clark, 47, of Williston, has served as an assistant attorney general and as chief of staff to Donovan. Clark stepped down from her post in May to campaign for the attorney general’s post after Donovan announced he would not be seeking reelection.

Donovan resigned in June when he accepted a lobbying job with Roblox, an online gaming platform. Later that month, Gov. Phil Scott appointed Young, his former administration secretary, to serve out the remainder of Donovan’s term, making her the first woman to hold the position.

Thibault, 39, of Cabot, has served as Washington County top prosecutor since 2018. He had previously served as assistant attorney general as well as a chief deputy in the Washington County state’s attorney’s office. 

Thibault has also served in the U.S. Army as a judge advocate general and is an Army Reserve officer.

The two Democratic candidates closely aligned on many issues, including reproductive rights, gun safety and expanding the number and types of crimes eligible to be cleared from a person’s record. Each campaigned on how their past roles would influence their work as attorney general.

Clark highlighted her leadership experience in the AG’s office, telling voters she had the skills and knowledge to direct it going forward. 

Thibault leaned on his time spent in the courtroom, referring to himself as a “practitioner” who, if elected attorney general, would at times argue cases himself in court. 

Asked what he thought went wrong in his campaign, Thibault pointed Tuesday night to a few factors, including Clark’s fundraising edge. According to campaign finance reports filed through Aug. 1, Clark had raised $120,700, compared to Thibault’s $88,823.

He also spoke of specific contributions Clark took in, including a $1,500 donation from the account of “Peter Shumlin for Governor.” Shumlin is a former Democratic governor in Vermont. 

"He remains at the epicenter of the EB-5 fraud," Thibault said, referring to the largest fraud case in the state's history involving a federal visa program that also led to criminal convictions of three developers.

State officials, including Shumlin, have denied wrongdoing. 

"We tried to run an incredibly positive campaign, an issue-oriented campaign," Thibault said, "but I don’t think Republicans will run a campaign like that.”

Asked if he would be supporting Clark in the general election, Thibault replied, "I'm going to support a Democrat no matter what."

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