Roy formally enters race for secretary of state (6/11/09)

Rainville endorses Republican’s candidacy

June 11, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Williston Selectboard member Chris Roy has declared his candidacy for secretary of state. But with the election still more than a year away, he said you won’t see him march in parades or wave campaign signs any time soon.

The Republican announced in February that he had formed an exploratory committee to consider a run for the post. After talking to party representatives, various groups and his family, Roy made his candidacy official last week.

“I was pleasantly surprised about finding people universally supportive,” he said.

The secretary of state contest got off to an unusually early start because Deb Markowitz, the Democrat who has held the post for about a decade, has signaled she intends to run for governor.

Markowitz has filed a bank designation form and hired campaign staff, according to Kathy DeWolfe, director of elections for the Secretary of State’s office.

Other potential gubernatorial candidates filing bank forms were Susan Bartlett of Hyde Park and Doug Racine of Richmond. Both Democrats are state senators.

Meanwhile, Charles Merriman, a Democrat from Middlesex, has also submitted paperwork indicating he will run for secretary of state. Merriman is a partner with Tarrant, Marks & Gillies and a former assistant attorney general.

Roy said his early entry into the race will give him time to gradually build support within his party. He plans a low-key campaign for the next few months, acknowledging that voters’ patience would be tested if he started politicking so far ahead of the November 2010 election.

“Frankly, I got going so early so I could do the groundwork and networking stuff, not because Vermonters are ready for an 18-month campaign,” he said.

Roy mused that if he tried to publicize his candidacy by marching in this year’s Independence Day parades, he might have to duck rotten produce tossed by bystanders.

Instead he will conduct a “soft” campaign, talking to civic groups and town clerks around the state and building an Internet presence with his own Web site and Facebook page.

Roy may be conducting a quiet campaign but he hasn’t been entirely silent. He recently issued a press release announcing an endorsement from Martha Rainville, former Vermont adjutant general and congressional candidate. Rainville used to be Roy’s neighbor in the Brennan Woods subdivision.

So far, Roy said he’s spent about $2,000 in his campaign, mainly to design a Web site and pay for business cards and other materials. He expects to spend about $200,000 before the race is done.

Roy was born and grew up in Barre. He graduated from Harvard College before getting a law degree from Cornell University. He is a partner with the Burlington law firm Downs Rachlin Martin, where he has worked since 1990, specializing in commercial and property litigation.

Roy was elected to a two-year term on the Selectboard in March 2008. He has left open the possibility of continuing to serve on the board if he wins the Secretary of State race.

Roy acknowledged it will be tough to juggle family duties, his law practice, the Selectboard and a campaign for statewide office. But he hopes his early entry in the race and the work he does over the next few months will take the pressure off as the election draws nearer.

“When the time comes next year to start doing the real traditional campaigning, I’ll have already sewn the seeds,” he said.