Politics

Democrats Nader Hashim, Wendy Harrison lead tallies for Windham County state Senate

Nader Hashim, left, and Wendy Harrison. Photos courtesy of the candidates

Updated at 1:48 a.m.

Democrats Nader Hashim and Wendy Harrison were leading their party primary for Windham County’s two state Senate seats, while three Republicans were locked in their own too-close-to-call race, according to incomplete results Tuesday night.

On the Democratic side, Hashim, a former Dummerston state representative and current law clerk, had 5,522 votes and Harrison, a Brattleboro-based traveling municipal manager, had 4,925, according to an Associated Press count at 1:31 a.m.

Democratic colleague Wichie Artu, an Athens farmer and social justice advocate, followed with 3,089 votes.

On the Republican side, Mark Coester, a Westminster logger, had 642 votes; Richard Kenyon, a Brattleboro tax preparer, had 614 votes; and Richard Morton of Brattleboro, a retired bank officer turned chaplain, had 591 votes, according to the AP count.

This year is the first in two decades that both Windham seats are open. Incumbent Becca Balint is stepping 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.

Democrats have held Windham’s two seats ever since the late Robert Gannett — a direct descendant of his hometown of Brattleboro’s namesake, American Revolution figure William Brattle — was the last Republican to win the southeastern Vermont Senate district in 1990.

All three Democratic candidates have spent the spring and summer raising a collective $45,000 to campaign through yard signs, websites and a series of debates.

Wrote Artu on his website: “I am a gay Puerto Rican Vermonter who celebrates my Indigenous (Taíno), African (Nigerian - Yoruba), and European roots. I know that each of our experiences are unique. I promise to listen and learn from yours.”

And Harrison on hers: “Using lessons learned in my decades of local government experience, I want to work to address the challenges facing Vermonters. In collaboration with those most personally impacted, I am committed to identifying barriers and creating solutions that empower individuals and benefit us all.”

And Hashim on his: “As a former Vermont state trooper and state representative, I’ve directly seen the needs and concerns affecting Vermonters throughout our county. I am committed to addressing the housing crisis, preserving our environment, rural economic development, and protecting our most vulnerable neighbors.”

In contrast, the three Republicans haven’t raised enough money to meet state reporting requirements and weren’t seen on lawns or online, except for Coester’s website for his separate U.S. Senate campaign.

The GOP ballot listed Coester alongside the similar-looking names of Richard “Rick” Kenyon and Richard “Rick” Morton. The two latter candidates hoped people would vote for both of them, as the Vermont Republican Party declined to support Coester after he marched in Colchester’s Fourth of July parade with fascist and alt-right symbols.

“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.

The primary winners will appear on the November general election ballot alongside Brattleboro Selectboard member Tim Wessel, who’s set to run as an independent in a district that includes all Windham County towns except Londonderry, Stratton and Wilmington. (The latter three communities are part of neighboring Bennington County’s Senate district.)

This story will be updated.

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