The Vermont Republican Party has recruited two new candidates to run for state attorney general and auditor come November, and they’re still on the hunt for a potential treasurer as the nomination deadline draws near.
On Aug. 9, perennial candidate H. Brooke Paige won the Republican nomination in four statewide executive races: attorney general, auditor, secretary of state and treasurer. But he was a placeholder candidate, having vowed to rescind his Republican nomination in all but one race, which allows the Republican party to nominate replacement candidates to appear on November’s ballot.
Friday was the state’s deadline for Paige to rescind any nominations, and he did for all but the secretary of state’s race. He will now go on to face Democratic state Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas in the general election.
With Paige out of three major races, the state GOP has just this week to nominate his replacements. The final deadline is Friday, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Vermont Republican Party Chair Paul Dame told VTDigger on Monday that, after a Sunday meeting with the party’s executive committee, two candidates were chosen: Rick Morton of Brattleboro was chosen to run for auditor, and Mike Tagliavia of Corinth for attorney general.
Morton is also vying for a seat in the state Senate, representing Windham County. He finished third in a tightly contested three-way primary, and with the top vote-getter Mark Coester having rescinded his GOP nomination to run as an independent, Morton will be one of two Republican candidates on the Windham County ballot.
Reached Monday afternoon, Morton said he plans to run in both the Senate and auditor races. If he were to win both, he said he would choose which seat to accept.
Before retiring four years ago, he worked as a security manager and compliance officer at Brattleboro Savings & Loan. He currently chairs the Windham County GOP. Morton has also previously run for state House and treasurer.
Dame said that Tagliavia is a political newcomer, having gotten involved with the state committee only last fall. But Dame said he thinks Tagliavia’s outsider status is a benefit in running against Democratic nominee Charity Clark, who served as chief of staff to Attorney General TJ Donovan.
“I think Mike represents somebody who's sort of outside the political establishment,” Dame said. “We kind of had this sort of dynasty building with the Democrats, where somebody picked somebody in their office to take their seat when they leave, like with Charity Clark. And so I think Mike presents an opportunity for voters to say, ‘You know what? Let's move away from this kind of picking my successor.’ ... The office belongs to the people, not to the office holder.”
Dame said the “number one request” he received after the primary election was to nominate former-U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan for the attorney general’s race, after she lost the Republican primary for Vermont’s open U.S. Senate seat. But Dame said, “I don't think she was interested and that’s understandable after a tough loss.”
“If she was interested, she would have gotten the committee's support 100%,” Dame said.
He left the door open to that possibility down the road, saying, “She has potential to run in the future, and she's a serious candidate. I think she would want to run a serious race. And so I don't blame her one bit for wanting to wait for a better opportunity.”
The party has yet to solidify a candidate for treasurer. Dame told VTDigger that, at Sunday’s meeting, the committee nominated former Rutland Treasurer Wendy Wilton, who previously ran for state treasurer in 2012. She wasn’t present for Sunday’s committee meeting, but when members called to ask if she would run, Dame said they cheered her name and she agreed. But on Monday morning, Dame said he got a call from Wilton, backing out.
Now, the party has until Friday to nominate a candidate for the treasurer’s race. Whoever is nominated will face Democrat Mike Pieciak in November.
Earlier this year, the party rallied around treasurer candidate Kevin Divney, a financial analyst from Londonderry. But he exited the race after Seven Days reported a recent DUI charge. Paige served as a primary election placeholder.
This year’s is a major election for Vermont, with a historic number of statewide executive office races open. Of six statewide executive officeholders, the only incumbents running for reelection are Republican Gov. Phil Scott and state Auditor Doug Hoffer.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Wendy Wilton as the current Rutland City treasurer.
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