BRATTLEBORO -- As Windham County Democrats wait for Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin to make his decision regarding the gubernatorial race, several candidates have expressed interest in replacing him in the Senate.
If Shumlin enters the campaign to replace Gov. James Douglas next year, his seat will open up for the first time since 2006. The Putney Democrat has won re-election to the Senate in the last two campaigns and he has become one of the leading liberal voices in Montpelier during his tenure.
According to Lamont Barnett, chairman of the Windham County Democrats, there is some talk regarding several candidates potentially running for the Senate seat. While a few expressed interest to him, Barnett said he would prefer not to release any names without their permission.
The Reformer put out calls to several potential candidates around the county to gauge the interest in replacing Shumlin, including former House member and current Westminster Selectboard member Toby Young who has confirmed she would be ready to run.
"I’m definitively planning on doing it," said Young. "I would not run if Peter decides to stay in the Senate, but other than that, I’m in there."
Having spent 10 years in the Statehouse and an additional 10 years in Montpelier lobbying for nonprofit groups, Young said she has great experience in the issues presently facing the Legislature.
Young was chairwoman of the House Health and Human Services
"I think that the atmosphere now is one [that] I would like to be a participant in," she added.
Scott McCarty of Brattleboro has publicly expressed his interest in the potentially open Senate seat.
"I wanted to let you know that I am strongly considering a run for the Senate at this time and I am also looking at a possible bid for the House." he wrote on his Web site, www.scottforbrattleboro.org. "Looking for ways to serve the people of Windham County has been my goal over the past few months and I have been heartened by the support of so many individuals across the county."
McCarty serves on Brattleboro’s Parks and Recreation Board, and was a member of the Development Review Board up until recently.
In a May interview with the Reformer, McCarty announced his intentions to explore the possibility of running for the Brattleboro House seat occupied by Progressive Sarah Edwards.
Another name that has come up as a possible Shumlin replacement is Gordon Bristol, a former Brattleboro Selectboard member who was also a House member for six years. He said he would maintain his independent status as far as his representation of all county residents, but would likely run as a Democrat.
Bristol, who gained the endorsement from both major parties during his legislative time, moved to Newfane nine years ago and has focused on his business since leaving the Statehouse.
He gave Shumlin and the county’s other senator, Jeanette White, credit for their work and said he would not jeopardize their efforts by running against them. He said he has received a great deal of support to seek the position should Shumlin enter the gubernatorial race.
"I think I owe it to those folks who encouraged me to give it some serious thinking," he said.
While flattered with the number of people supporting his return, Bristol said he would have to weigh the effects of a campaign on his family and his business during the next few months.
Additionally, former House Majority Leader and current Rep. Carolyn Partridge, D-Windham, said she is considering crossing from one chamber to the next. However, she said she will not announce her decision until after the legislative session ends next year so she can focus her time as the elected official to the House.
"I don’t want anything to distract from the responsibility," she said.
Other county residents have floated former Brattleboro representative Daryl Pillsbury’s name as a potential candidate, but the independent said he has no interest in a campaign for the Senate, saying he would rather spend time with his family and focus on local projects, such as establishing a skateboard park committee in town.
State Republican leaders say their party also has plans to have Senate candidates in Windham County.
Vermont Republican Party chairman Rob Roper said that "we do have people who are interested in that race, and we’re just waiting to see how things shake out."
Mike Hebert, chairman of the Windham County Republicans and a previous candidate for the Senate, said there is nothing official in the county GOP at this point, but it is still very early in the season.
"There’s nothing going on yet, it’s kind of wait and see," said Hebert, who noted it is very unlikely he would enter the race again.
However, all the political speculation could be for naught if Shumlin decides not to seek the governor’s post. Shumlin has said he plans to announce his decision sometime later this month.
Chris Garofolo can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.