Updated Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 3:48 a.m.
As Vermonters took to the polls Tuesday to elect a new state Senate, Democrats and Progressives sought to maintain their veto-proof majority in the upper chamber. Preliminary results suggested they were successful.
The state’s left-of-center parties entered the night with 23 of the Senate’s 30 seats — and they appeared to exit the night with the same number. Republicans, who had hoped to flip seats in Orange and Chittenden counties, failed to do so. The GOP did appear on track to pick up one seat in Rutland County, though the margin there was only 250 votes.
By early Wednesday morning, it was clear that Sen. Mark MacDonald, D-Orange, had fended off a challenge from Republican John Klar. With 12 of 13 of the district’s precincts reporting, MacDonald led Klar 50% to 39%.
The newly drawn Chittenden North district had been considered among the best pickup opportunities for Republicans, but Democrat Irene Wrenner prevailed over Rep. Leland Morgan, R-Milton, by 45% to 42%.
In Rutland County’s three-member district, Sen. Brian Collamore, R-Rutland, easily won reelection and fellow Republican Terry Williams also prevailed. The third Republican nominee, David Weeks, was leading top Democratic vote-getter Anna Tadio 10,699 to 10,449 for the district’s third seat. All 13 precincts had reported results, though a recount appeared possible.
And in Franklin County, Republicans held on to both seats, with Rep. Robert Norris, R-Sheldon, joining incumbent Sen. Randy Brock, R-Franklin, in the chamber.
This was the first election following a decennial redistricting process that reshaped Vermont’s state Senate boundaries. Among other changes, the previously two-member Caledonia district lost one senator — putting Republicans at an immediate disadvantage. The previously two-member Essex/Orleans district was divided into two single-member districts.
The biggest change involved splitting a single six-member Chittenden County district into three. Voters in the county are now divided between a three-member Chittenden Central district, a three-member Chittenden Southeast district and the single-member Chittenden North district.
Orange Senate District
Both major parties highlighted Orange County’s senate seat, held by longtime Sen. Mark MacDonald, D-Orange, as a race to watch. MacDonald faced stiff opposition from Republican John Klar, a Brookfield farmer, attorney and former candidate for governor.
But with all but one precinct reporting early Wednesday morning, MacDonald was leading Klar 50% to 39%.
When Klar ran for governor in 2020, he positioned himself to the right of Gov. Phil Scott. That campaign, though unsuccessful, boosted Klar’s name recognition. Since then, he’s written frequent op-eds in Vermont’s conservative online publications.
MacDonald suffered a stroke in October, taking him off the campaign trail in the final weeks of the race. A retired teacher and farmer and a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War, he has served on and off in the Vermont House and Senate since 1983.
Chittenden North Senate District
Reapportionment this year created the Chittenden North district, which includes the Chittenden County and Franklin County towns of Milton, Westford, Essex and Fairfax. The new district represented the best chance in the region for Republicans to pick up a seat in the Senate, but Democrat Irene Wrenner prevailed over Rep. Leland Morgan, R-Milton, by 45% to 42%.
Morgan lives in West Milton and has represented that area, as well as the five towns in nearby Grand Isle County, in the Vermont House for the past four years.
Wrenner hails from the other end of the district: Essex town, where she served on the selectboard from 2007 to 2019.
Rutland Senate District
In Rutland County, the retirements of Sen. Cheryl Hooker, D/P-Rutland, and Sen. Joshua Terenzini, R-Rutland, provided pickup opportunities for both parties in the three-member district.
Democrats fielded three candidates — Anna Tadio, Bridgette Remington and Joshua Ferguson. In addition to incumbent Sen. Brian Collamore, R-Rutland, Republicans nominated David Weeks and Terry Williams.
With all precincts reporting early Wednesday, Collamore was in the lead with 13,871 votes, followed by Williams with 11,450 and Weeks with 10,699. Tadio was not far behind with 10,449 votes.
Franklin Senate District
In Franklin County, where Sen. Corey Parent, R-Franklin, chose not to run for reelection, Democrats had hoped to pick up a seat Tuesday. The two-member district has also been represented by Sen. Randy Brock, R-Franklin.
But with all precincts reporting early Wednesday, Rep. Robert Norris, R-Sheldon, was easily outpacing the two Democratic nominees: former Vermont Family Network CEO Pam McCarthy and small business owner Jessie Nakuma Palczewski.
Brock was the top vote-getter in the district, with 9,522 votes, followed by Norris with 8,528. McCarthy picked up 6,716 votes and Palczewski 3,963.
The Franklin Senate district includes most municipalities in Franklin County, as well as Alburgh in neighboring Grand Isle County. Following redistricting this year, the Franklin County towns of Fairfax and Fletcher are no longer part of the Senate district, and the Franklin County town of Richford was slotted in from the Essex-Orleans district.
Windham Senate District
With both Windham County incumbents, Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint, D-Windham, and Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, not running for reelection, two seats opened up in the state’s southeast corner.
With all precincts reporting early Wednesday, voters in Windham County had chosen Democrats Wendy Harrison, a Brattleboro-based traveling municipal manager, and Nader Hashim, a former Dummerston state representative and current law clerk. They easily defeated Republicans Richard Morton and Richard Kenyon, as well as independent Tim Wessel, a member of the Brattleboro Selectboard.
Windsor Senate District
When Sen. Alice Nitka, D-Windsor, decided not to run for reelection, a seat opened in the three-member Windsor County senate district. With every precinct reporting, Sen. Alison Clarkson, D-Windsor, and Sen. Dick McCormack, D-Windsor, won reelection. Rep. Becca White, D-Hartford, was also elected to the upper chamber, defeating Republicans Bill Huff, Dana Colson Jr., and Alice Flanders.
Washington Senate District
Progressive/Democratic Sen. Anthony Pollina’s decision to retire from the Senate opened up a seat in the three-member Washington district. The two other incumbents, Sen. Ann Cummings, D-Washington, and Sen. Andrew Perchlik, D/P-Washington, were reelected on Tuesday. Anne Watson, Democratic mayor of Montpelier, picked up the third seat, defeating Republicans Paul Bean, Dwayne Tucker and Dexter Lefavour.
Chittenden Central Senate District
Chittenden County’s reapportionment led to the creation of a new three-seat Chittenden Central district made up of Burlington's New and Old North Ends, Winooski, Essex Junction, parts of Essex town and a sliver of Colchester.
Sen. Phil Baruth, D/P-Chittenden, won the most votes and was reelected to a seventh term. He is expected to become the next president pro tempore of the Senate. Martine Gulick, a Democrat, and Rep. Tanya Vyhovsky, P/D-Essex, came in second and third respectively, picking up seats in the upper chamber and defeating Infinite Culcleasure, an independent.
Chittenden Southeast Senate District
Chittenden Southeast, the most populous of the three new Chittenden districts, includes Bolton, Charlotte, Hinesburg, Jericho, Richmond, St. George, Shelburne, South Burlington, Williston, Underhill and the southern tip of Burlington.
With all precincts reporting early Wednesday, three incumbent Democratic senators had won reelection to the three-member district: Sen. Thomas Chittenden, Sen. Ginny Lyons and Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale. They appeared likely to defeat Republican candidates Dean Rolland and Rohan St. Marthe.
Caledonia Senate District
Caledonia County voters reelected Democratic Sen. Jane Kitchel over Republican challenger JT Dodge.
Addison Senate District
In Addison County, incumbent Democratic Sens. Chris Bray and Ruth Hardy defeated Republican challengers Lloyd Dike and Robert Burton, as well as independent Mason Wade III.
Orleans Senate District
Incumbent Sen. Bobby Starr, a Democrat who previously served in the Essex-Orleans district, was reelected to the newly created Orleans district. He defeated Republican Samuel Douglass.
Grand Isle Senate District
Sen. Dick Mazza, D-Grand Isle, won reelection, defeating Republican Stephen Bellows. Mazza has been a member of the senate since 1985.
Essex Senate District
Incumbent Sen. Russ Ingalls, a Republican who previously represented the Essex-Orleans district, was reelected to the newly created Essex district. He ran unopposed.
Lamoille Senate District
Running unopposed, Sen. Rich Westman, R-Lamoille, was reelected.
Bennington Senate District
Democrats Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, and Sen. Brian Campion, D-Bennington, won reelection on Tuesday. They were unopposed.
Read the story on VTDigger here: Democrats and Progressives hold their 23-seat supermajority in the Vermont Senate.