Democrats rule the roost in Senate race (Aug.14 2008)

Lyons running for re-election

Aug. 14, 2008
By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Ginny Lyons is seeking re-election to the Vermont Senate, joining a crowded field that includes nine Democrats and just one Republican.

The Williston resident is running for a fifth two-year term. She is one of two candidates from Williston seeking election in the six-seat district. The other is Tim Palmer, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate in 2006.

Contributed photo
Ginny Lyons

Lyons said she wants to continue her work as chairwoman of the Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

During the past biennium, the committee worked on environmental and consumer protection measures. Lyons also served on the Health and Welfare Committee.

“I think I’ve done a highly effective and productive job, both with protecting the public health and the environment and maintaining a healthy business climate,” Lyons said. “And I want to continue that tradition.”

Lyons, 63, was a biology professor at the now-defunct Trinity College in Burlington. She has for the past several years been a part-time instructor at area colleges. This fall she will teach a course on environmental issues at Community College of Vermont.

Her husband of 39 years, Richard Lyons, is a doctor with a practice in Winooski. The couple has two grown children.

Lyons served on the Williston Selectboard from 1991 to 2006. She was first elected to the state Senate in 2000.

Both Democratic and Republican primaries will be held on Sept. 9, despite the fact that there will apparently be no contest on the county’s GOP ballot. The lone Republican is Diane Snelling, an incumbent from Hinesburg.

Under state law, a primary must be held regardless of the number of candidates. Chittenden County Clerk Diane Lavallee said primaries are needed because there may be write-in votes.

In her 20 years as clerk, Lavallee said she couldn’t recall another election with so few Republican candidates running for state Senate in Chittenden County. In 2006, the party fielded seven candidates, according to the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office.

Vermont Republican Party Chairman Rob Roper called the county’s Senate district “unconstitutional,” a gerrymander that protects incumbents. He said the party tried to recruit candidates, but prospects were discouraged by the expense of running a campaign and the odds against success.

“It’s so rigged for incumbents, people just said the heck with it,” Roper said.

Chittenden County is perhaps one of Vermont’s most liberal counties. Roper said that factor, combined with the sheer number of seats in the district, works against Republicans or any newcomer because voters who see a long list of candidates they don’t know much about will generally vote along party lines.

Asked if the district is too big, Lyons sidestepped the question. She did say that Chittenden County residents share a “common bond” on many issues, making for a “fairly cohesive” district. “Does it make it any easier to represent all the people? No,” she said.

Lyons foresees a focus on energy issues in the next legislative session, particularly the re-licensing of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. She said she has yet to make up her mind on the issue.

“I’m not predisposed one way or the other,” Lyons said. “What I do know is that the safety of the citizens of the state has to come first.”

With the state facing budget shortfalls and pressing energy issues, it has never been more important to elect experienced candidates, Lyons said.

“Having that experience in the Legislature at this time is only going to benefit the citizens of Chittenden County,” she said.

Who’s running?

The following candidates are seeking to represent Chittenden County in the Vermont Senate:


Tim Ashe, D-Burlington
Denise Begins Barnard, D-Richmond
Edward Flanagan, D-Burlington
Ginny Lyons, D-Williston
Dennis McMahon, D-Burlington
Hinda Miller, D-Burlington
Tim Palmer, D-Williston
Doug Racine, D-Richmond
Sean Starfighter,  D-Burlington 


Diane B. Snelling, R-Hinesburg