State Rep. Job Tate, one of the most outspoken conservative voices in Montpelier, is resigning his seat in the state House after receiving news of his U.S. Navy Construction Battalion unit’s imminent deployment.
Tate, a Navy reservist first elected in 2014, was the only Republican representative not to endorse Gov. Phil Scott in the GOP primary in 2016.
Now Scott gets to pick Tate’s replacement from a list of three names provided by the state Republican Party.
That choice will most likely reflect Scott’s moderate brand of Republicanism, not Tate’s full-spectrum conservatism.
“I think that concern is well founded,” Tate told Watchdog. “I don’t think anyone is surprised (Scott’s) a moderate, and that’s representative of a lot of the state. I’m not going to blame him if he appoints someone who will hold his agenda.”
Tate was an outspoken critic of Scott’s sanctuary-like response to President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. And while Tate said his top priority is economic policy, he also voted against a resolution supporting abortion rights, a bill to remove firearms from the homes of those accused of domestic assault, and a bill terminating parental notification requirements for students receiving sexual orientation counseling.
“Having been in the trenches and fought the battle, representing these values is hard. Part of me wishes I could hand off my seat, but I think that is vanity rather than a desire for good representation,” he said.
The three candidates the party nominated are: Killington Police Chief Whit Montgomery; Dave Soucy, general manager of Green Mountain National Golf Course; and Jim Harrison, former president of the Vermont Retail and Grocers Association.
“The driving concern in my district has been the economy and taxation,” Tate said. “On those core principles I do line up (with the candidates), but on other issues, voters are going to find more moderation in the candidate appointed,” said Tate. He also noted that his district is not particularly conservative on social issues, but supported his candidacy because of economic policy.
But Tate said his election proves there is room for true conservatives in Vermont’s government.
“If we don’t have the courage to voice our convictions, we need to ask, why are we fighting anyway? Do we have an empty need to win? We need to believe in the cause of conservatism and sell it better. It’s tough to be a Republican in Vermont. But with the overreach of the left, I have complete confidence in a massive resurgence of the Republican Party in Vermont.”
After all, he added, Vermont was once a conservative state. “Rugged individualism was born out of these hills. I would like to think I had a small hand in progress toward conservatism simply by manning my post and not backing down when faced with withering opposition,” he said.
Tate hopes to leave Montpelier by the end of the week, and Scott has set up interviews with the three candidates.
Operational details of Tate’s deployment with the Seabees were not released publicly.
Emma Lamberton is Vermont Watchdog’s health care and Rutland area reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and @EmmaBeth9.