Editor’s note: This article was updated at 10:45 a.m. Thursday.
Last week, Rep. Job Tate, R-Mendon, announced he was leaving his seat in the Vermont House due to the deployment of his U.S. naval unit. The replacement candidates now under consideration are unlikely to have the same conservative credentials.
On Friday, the Rutland County GOP presented the governor with a list of three candidates who could replace Tate. With 51 votes needed to preserve a veto from Republican Gov. Phil Scott, each of the current 53 Republican seats is direly important, and few successors are likely to be as conservative as Tate.
Scott began interviewing candidates this week, and Tate informed the governor that April 14 is his deadline.
The U.S. Naval Construction Battalions, of which Tate is a reservist, is based in Gulfport, Mississippi. The unit is an expeditionary force and handles initial construction and infrastructure needs of the Navy, usually in hostile areas.
Tate is an explosives specialist and heavy equipment operator. As a courtesy to the rest of his unit, he has not disclosed details of the deployment.
Meet candidate Dave Soucy
Dave Soucy, one of the three on the Tate replacement list, has been general manager for the Green Mountain National Golf Course in Killington for the past 11 years. The job requires regular coordination with local government.
“I’m used to municipal government,” Soucy told Watchdog. “Vermont is a small state, and our politics are close to home.”
Before working for the golf course, Soucy started several Vermont businesses, experience he says informs his economic policy. “I know what it’s like to run a business in Vermont and how difficult it is.”
When asked about his views on a Democrat proposal to raise Vermont’s minimum wage, he added, “I’d have a difficult time doing that. It’s not easy to give people good jobs. … At this point I would not support it.”
Soucy said that, if elected, he has a plan to get caught up: “I’m a voracious reader anyway, so I will read everything possible. I’ll reach out to Republican leadership to get their views and get information from other legislators. It’s difficult to take a position when following important topics through the press unless you’ve read all the documentation.”
He says his economic policies are conservative and align with Tate’s. However, he was hesitant to confirm his views on social issues in the state. “The only way I really can do this job is to look at issues and look at what is in constituents’ best interest. I can’t function if I’m worrying about what Job would have done.”
Soucy approached the Vermont Republican Party after he heard Tate’s chair would be vacant. He said that trips to Montpelier and coordinating with lawmakers in connection to the golf course has piqued his interest to take his political involvement to the next step.
Meet candidate Jim Harrison
Jim Harrison lives in North Chittenden with his wife, Pat. Last year, he retired from a 30-year position as president of the Vermont Retail and Grocers Association. The organization represents 800 retail stores, 200 suppliers and 120 food producers in Vermont. Through this position he participated in lobbying and policy efforts in Montpelier.
“Given my experience at the Statehouse, I am very familiar with many of the issues before them. I keep up with the daily House and Senate agendas and stay informed through conversations with lawmakers,” Harrison told Watchdog.
He added, “No doubt there are issues I am not as familiar with that I will need to get more knowledgeable on if appointed, but I feel confident I could be up to speed very quickly.”
Harrison said his focus is on economics, lowering taxes and job creation. He wants to take a hard look at permitting processes for businesses, find ways to increase state bargaining power, and generate competition for state funds going toward utilities and insurance.
As president of an association that employs a high number of minimum wage workers, Harrison also rejects a raise in the minimum wage.
“A strong economy will do more to increase everyone’s wages than a new dictate from Montpelier,” he said. “Additionally, a significantly higher minimum wage will cause some loss in jobs, which could actually hurt many people that such proposals are trying to help.”
Harrison said he shares Tate’s embrace of fiscal conservatism. “Overall, I think we share a lot of similarities in a fiscally conservative approach to our state budget and supporting positions on legislation that are pro-economy. Like any two individuals, I am sure there are differences in how we may approach some issues.”
Meet candidate Whit Montgomery
Whit Montgomery, the third candidate nominated, is Killington’s police chief and a former constable. He graduated from the Vermont Police Academy in 1999 and began his 14-year career working as part of Killington’s law enforcement. He co-founded Killington Search and Rescue, a nonprofit specializing in rural, limited-access emergency response.
Montgomery did not respond to Watchdog’s request for an interview.
Emma Lamberton is Vermont Watchdog’s health care and Rutland area reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and @EmmaBeth9.