Sullivan, pursuing auditor's seat, still alone in House race

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DORSET — State Rep. Linda Joy Sullivan, a candidate in the Tuesday, Aug. 11 Democratic primary for auditor of accounts, has said she'd welcome write-in votes from across party lines as she seeks her party's nomination for the statewide seat.

And as of Monday, she's the only candidate on the ballot for the Bennington-Rutland district in the Vermont House of Representatives.

That means that if she doesn't beat incumbent Auditor Doug Hoffer in the primary, Sullivan could continue the campaign with the nomination of another party — and still seek a third term representing the towns of Danby, Dorset, Landgrove, Mount Tabor and Peru in the House.

Can you run for more than one office in Vermont? Yes, you can.

"This is not unconstitutional and has happened before," said William MaGill, clerk of the Vermont House of Representatives. "It is not a problem to run for multiple offices but it is a problem for a candidate to hold the offices at the same time. If the person is elected to two constitutional offices at the same time, they will have to choose which office they will serve."

In 2016, H. Brooke Paige of Washington ran for and won nomination for six GOP statewide nominations in the Republican primary. He kept only one, for Secretary of State, and lost to incumbent Jim Condos in the general election. This year, three other elected officials are vacating their seats to run for statewide office: Lt. Governor David Zuckerman, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor, and state Sens. Tim Ashe and Debbie Ingram, who are both seeking the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. Why is Sullivan running for both offices, rather than focus on the auditor's race, in which she faces a fourth-term incumbent in her first statewide run?

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"These positions are not 'incompatible' under state statutes," Sullivan said. "More importantly, though, when I announced for auditor I was strongly encouraged by many constituents in my House district to not abandon the House seat. I have very much enjoyed serving my neighbors, friends and our constituent businesses these last four years and have been proud to be their voice in Montpelier."

"My intention is to continue to serve the people of Vermont in Montpelier in 2021," Sullivan said. "Voters will decide if I will have the opportunity to serve in the state auditor position or if I will continue to serve the Northshire in the House."

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There is a list of offices you can't hold at the same time in Vermont, and auditor is not on the list, found in Section 26 of the Vermont Constitution. It says: "No person in this State shall be capable of holding or exercising more than one of the following offices at the same time: Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, Justice of the Supreme Court, Treasurer of the State, member of the Senate, member of the House of Representatives, Surveyor-General, or Sheriff."

Sullivan said that if she wins both offices in November, she will serve as auditor and step down from the House.

In that case, a replacement for the Bennington-Rutland House district would be chosen, and it's a long-held tradition that a member of the same party as the departing member is chosen to serve. Recent Southern Vermont examples include state Rep. Kelley Tully, D-Rockingham, who replaced fellow Democrat Matt Trieber when he stepped down in February, and state Rep. Kelly Pajala, I-Londonderry, who was appointed to fill the term of fellow Londonderry independent Oliver Olsen in 2017.

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Whether Sullivan will see a ballot challenger for her House seat remains an open question. In 2018, she ran unopposed for re-election, and as of Monday, no one had filed as an independent or minor party for the seat on the general election ballot, according to Dorset Town Clerk Sandra Pinsonault. Independent candidates were free to file for the Nov. 3 general election ballot starting last Thursday, and have until 5 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 6 to file consent of candidate and financial disclosure forms. So-called "minor party" candidates also face an Aug. 6 deadline for these required forms. As for Sullivan's invitation for write-in votes across party lines? That's not unheard of, either. Sullivan said she welcomes it because she believes the auditor's office should be non-partisan.

Hoffer said he has run as a Democrat/Progressive in every election since 2010.

"Certainly there are some voters who think purely along party lines. I like to think Vermonters - proudly independent and mindful — will vote for me because I am not just a lifelong Democrat, but I have a specialized public audit skill set, decades of relevant professional experience and will bring the right energy and approach to the position," Sullivan said.

"I ran as a [Democrat-Republican] for my House seat in 2018," Sullivan said. "If you have voters supporting you across party lines as I do - particularly for such a clearly non-partisan position as state auditor — why not?"

Greg Sukiennik covers Vermont government and politics for New England Newspapers Inc. Reach him at gsukiennik@reformer.com.


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