Three Democrats vie for two seats in Windham 4 House district

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DUMMERSTON — Town clerks in Dummerston, Putney and Westminster were expecting a lengthy evening of counting paper ballots by hand, as voters went to the polls in what was described as a strong turnout during Tuesday's Democratic primary.

Three Democrats - Rep. Mike Mrowicki, D-Putney, and two newcomers, Cindy Jerome and Nader Hashim, both of Dummerston, were competing for the two spots on the Democratic ballot in November.

But as Hashim said outside the Dummerston polling place at noon Tuesday, the primary had essentially turned into the General Election for the House district, since there are no Republicans running for the two seats in the Windham 4 House district.

The unusual Democratic primary was the result of the retirement of longtime Rep. David Deen, D-Westminster, who announced his plans to retire from the House after the 2018 election, after serving the three-town district for 30 years.

The three Democrats are all of the liberal, progressive persuasion, with the differences more in biography than issues emerging during the candidate forums held in the three towns. The three Democrats talked about the opioid crisis, the lack of mental health care and local control over schools.

Hashim, a member of the Vermont State Police stationed in the Westminster barracks for the past seven years, was greeted warmly by people outside the Dummerston polling place, which is in the basement of the Dummerston Center Church.

Where people usually flock to the church for its famous strawberry, peach or apple pie suppers, they instead flocked to the voting booths, covered with curtains of red, white and blue canvas as they filled out their ballot.

Hashim said he was encouraged by the support, and hoped he would be elected to represent the three-town district in January. He will have to take a leave of absence from the state police while he serves in Montpelier.

Dummerston Town Clerk Laurie Frechette said that turnout was good, even before the polls opened Tuesday morning.

"We had 13 percent of the town who voted early," she said, either filling out an absentee ballot or coming into her office and casting a ballot.

Jerome has a long record of service to her hometown, serving first on the select board, and then serving as the town moderator. She is the former executive director of the Holton Home in Brattleboro.

In Putney, Town Clerk Jonathan Johnson was overseeing his first election. "Putney is a hand-count town," said Johnson, as a steady stream of Putney voters headed into the meeting room at the Putney Fire Station to vote their preferences.

Johnson said it was definitely the Windham 4 House race that was bringing people to the polls — not the Democratic primary in the Windham Senate race, or the four-way race for the Democratic nomination for governor.

Outside the polls, Jerome and Mrowicki's wife Amelia Struthers were busy talking to people they knew, or answering questions. Mrowicki, a social worker, was working until the afternoon, and then he would hit the polls.

All were in Westminster together earlier in the morning, campaigning.

Hashim said Westminster was the largest town, population-wise, but Putney nudged it out with slightly higher voter turnout in general.

Jerome said she was hosting a party at her home for her campaign workers, and waiting to get the results.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or 802 254-2311, ext. 154.

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