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At Least Five Democrats Vie for State Senate Seat

From left, Jeremy Hansen, Anne Watson, and Jared Duval. Courtesy photos.
At least five Democrats are vying for three Vermont Senate seats in the Democratic primary on August 9. Anne Watson, Jared Duval, and Jeremy Hansen recently announced their candidacies and incumbents Ann Cummings and Andrew Perchlik are expected to seek reelection. Incumbent Sen. Anthony Pollina is not running for another term. 

There are three seats representing Washington County, Stowe, Orange, and Braintree in the Vermont State Senate. Duval, a clean energy nonprofit leader and former economic development director for Vermont, announced his candidacy in a press release issued Monday. Watson, Montpelier mayor and a former city councilor, held a press conference Friday to announce her candidacy as well. 

Watson, Duval, and Hansen

“I come from and am deeply committed to the working class of Vermont,” Duval said. “I am particularly humbled to run in the same district that Senator Anthony Pollina has served. His life and work have been an inspiration to me, from efforts to raise the minimum wage to working to pass a Vermont Green New Deal.” 

Watson, too, expressed admiration for Pollina’s work. “I have a deep respect for Anthony Pollina and the work he has done on behalf of Washington County,” she said in her release. “I particularly appreciate that he led the charge for Vermont’s Green New Deal.” 

Watson added, “These are some big shoes to fill. I hope I can measure up to his level of service. I have spent nearly ten years dedicated to leading Montpelier, and now I’m committed to serving all of the people of central Vermont, as we navigate financial, economic, and social challenges.” 

“My three central campaign themes are housing, universal healthcare, and climate change,” Hansen said about his race in a press release last week. “I’ve gotten a good sense of the needs of Vermonters through my work with the 21 member communities of CVFiber over the past five years, both on main streets and mud season roads.” 

Hansen also brings the perspective of someone struggling with skyrocketing housing prices. Facing his fourth move because his landlord was selling, Hansen said he found himself in a position faced by many Vermonters. “There were literally no options we could afford that would allow us to stay in the school district where my kids grew up. Whenever something would briefly come onto the market, we couldn’t compete with the inflated asking prices and cash offers. Vermonters shouldn’t have to panic and go broke trying to stay in their communities.”

He pointed out the state program to pay people from out of state to move here as being particularly out-of-touch. “If we’re going to realistically house the people who are already here, we have to be smarter about allocating state funds.” 

Why They are Running

Duval’s life has been committed to building a greener, more equitable economy that responds to the climate crisis and that works better for working Vermonters — especially lower- and middle-income families such as the one he grew up in, his release noted. 

“My main motivation to run comes from wanting to serve working-class Vermonters who are struggling, as my parents did when I was growing up, and who deserve policymakers who listen to and respect them.” Duval, whose father survived multiple heart attacks and weathered bankruptcy and housing insecurity caused by medical debt, knows what it means to face economic hardship. Duval said he will be a champion for working Vermonters. 

Watson noted a similar drive for her own campaign. “I’m running for the Senate because I care deeply about central Vermont and its residents,” Watson noted. “I will be a strong, experienced voice to fight for a livable planet and to protect working families,” she said in her announcement speech. Watson cited equitable decarbonization, healthcare, and support for working families as high priorities for her campaign. 

Focus on Climate and Health Care

Hansen voices similar concerns, calling for even stronger legislation around climate issues, and noting “The temperature increases and weather instability that we are now seeing will continue to have devastating results that fall disproportionately on working Vermonters … Though I applaud any forward movement, we can still do better. We need to ensure that working Vermonters, especially people of color, do not also pay a disproportionately high price for the state’s strategies to limit emissions.” 

Like Duval, Hansen is campaigning not only on affordable housing, but also affordable health care, pointing out that most working Vermonters can’t afford “the cheapest family plans on the Vermont Health Exchange at more than $1,600 per month with a $7,250 deductible.” 

Candidate Backgrounds

Hansen is an associate professor of computer science at Norwich University, the founder and former chair of CVFiber, and the former vice chair of the Berlin Selectboard 

Watson and Duval bring not only governmental but also diverse other experiences to the table. Duval previously served in state government as Economic Development Director at the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, where he supported working lands and clean energy businesses and workforce development. For the past five years he has served as executive director of the Energy Action Network, a statewide nonprofit organization that conducts research and analysis on energy, equity, and the economy while supporting a diverse network of members working to achieve Vermont’s energy and climate commitments. Duval is a member of the Vermont Climate Council and a co-author of Vermont’s Climate Action Plan. He has also served as a board member of the Public Assets Institute, the mission of which includes improving the well-being of all Vermonters by conducting research and analysis related to the state budget and fiscal policy. 

“I believe that policymaking should be guided by evidence, reason, and empathy and that policymakers should work with civility, humility, and collaboration. I run to offer my commitment to this approach and because I know that by using it we can improve the lives of this and future generations of Vermonters,” Duval said in his press release. 

Watson’s Experience

Watson has served as Montpelier’s mayor for the past five years and prior to that was on the city council for five and a half years. (She notes that she plans to step down as mayor if elected, with a new mayoral election to follow.) Additionally, Watson has taught at Montpelier High School for 17 years. She teaches physics, engineering, and math. Her release noted that she has been a champion of Montpelier’s net-zero energy goal, which has led to many cost-saving and energy-saving projects, including setting up the city’s Green Revolving Loan fund, which is being used as a model by other municipalities. She spearheaded the effort to bring the city closer to its net-zero goals by acquiring one megawatt of solar energy, which saves taxpayers $50,000 per year on municipal electric bills. During her time as mayor, Montpelier has seen the completion of the Siboinebi Shared Use Path extension, the construction of the 1 Taylor Street Transit Center, and the revitalization of the French Block apartments on Main Street in Montpelier. She helped lead the council in creating the Social and Economic Justice Committee and the Homelessness Task Force. 

Ninth Generation

Duval is part of the ninth generation of his family to live in Vermont and the sixth generation to live in Washington County per his press release. 

“My love for Vermont and my commitment to my fellow Vermonters runs very deep. It would be a humbling honor to be entrusted with the responsibility to represent Washington County, Braintree, Orange, and Stowe in our State Senate,” Duval said. “I look forward to spending time across our district in the months ahead, listening to and learning from my neighbors and working to earn one of your three votes for State Senate.” 

Per his press release, before moving back home to Vermont, Duval interned for then-Congressman Bernie Sanders (2001); was the youngest member of the policy team for Governor Howard Dean’s presidential campaign (2003); served as the national director of the Sierra Student Coalition (2005–2007), then the largest student-led environmental organization in America; authored the book “Next Generation Democracy” (2010); and earned a Master in Public Affairs degree from Princeton University (2014), with a concentration in domestic policy. Duval is an avid outdoors person who enjoys hiking, fishing, and hunting. Duval and his family moved to Washington County in 2014, and lives in Montpelier with his wife, Joan Javier-Duval, and their eight-year-old son. 

Watson, too, pointed to her time as a resident of central Vermont as an asset to her candidacy. “Just by virtue of having lived in central Vermont for many years now, I’ve made many wonderful connections with people throughout Washington County and Stowe,” she said in an email. “I’m looking forward to getting to know more folks outside of Montpelier. One of my favorite parts of campaigning is the opportunity to meet people, hear their stories, and what matters to them.” 

She also said in her press release, “Vermont’s economy has the potential to grow and the quality of life for Vermonters has the potential to improve if we can provide high-quality childcare, paid family leave, affordable housing, and healthcare to all who need it.” 

Primary Vote August 9

“Primary challenges are healthy and good for democracy,” Watson said in an email. “I think it makes the conversation richer, and it ultimately makes the process more engaging for everyone. Watson added, “We certainly want to encourage as many people as possible to participate in the August 9th primary, and the November 3rd general election, and I think having a variety of candidates to choose from will help with that. I’d encourage folks to put those dates on their calendars now to make sure that they remember to vote on those days.” 

Hansen states that he has pledged not to accept any campaign contributions from corporations or from corporate PACs. He says that he encourages all other candidates to make the same pledge. 

The top three vote-getters in the primary will advance to the general election in November.