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Montpelier city clerk enters race for Secretary of State

John Odum
John Odum
John Odum

The Montpelier city clerk has entered the race for Vermont Secretary of State.

Democrat John Odum made his announcement via Zoom Monday.

“I have decided that I will be entering the race for the Democratic nomination for Secretary of State.”

Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos is retiring at the end of the term after 12 years.

Odum has IT experience and in the past managed database and network security for the Vermont Democratic Party and ran database applications for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

His says concern over potential hacking of election systems has grown since 2016. Odum says he has unique skills regarding election security that would be of use in the Secretary of State’s office.

“I’m a certified ethical hacker. That is a computer systems penetration test credential. So I’ve done a lot of this and I can tell you that the hacks that were used that were reported on were some very basic hacks. It was very disturbing," said Odum. "Now systems around the country have done a lot to harden their defense but what I would bring to the table is a sense of how hackers are looking to get in and a firsthand sense of what we can do to prevent that. Now I’m not pretending I’m going to be the IT guy but it’s something that I can be more directly involved in I think in a way that no Secretary of State has ever been.”

Odum indicated that dealing with election security would also reassure people who are concerned about potential voter fraud.

He then cited two other key reasons he is running for Secretary of State. The city of Montpelier, along with Winooski, now allows non-citizen voting in local elections. Odum says the state could be more supportive.

“I am currently being sued by the Republican National Committee and the Vermont Republican Party. The reason for that is that I’m going against the national pushback to whittle away at voting rights. In Montpelier we just had a Town Meeting Day where we actually had non-citizens registered to vote in local elections. We’re talking local decisions. They pay taxes. They have their kids in school. And they deserve a right to have a say in the decisions their local communities make." He added, "I think that the Secretary of State’s office doesn’t need to sit on the sidelines. I think we could get actively involved in being a resource for communities that want to go this route.”

Odum says his 10 years as Montpelier City Clerk give him appropriate skills and background to lead the state office.

“As clerks we have that firsthand experience dealing with not only elections but archiving, with local licensing. These are functions that are managed at the Secretary of State’s level but you know bringing that sort of person, community perspective to it can only be a positive thing." Odum then emphasized, "I also want to make it clear that I’m not running against anybody. Chris Winters, I know who’s already put his hat in the ring, he’s a great guy. I think we have different visions. I think we bring different experience. But I’m running for the office and not against anyone.”

Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters is already running in the Democratic field.

Odum sasy it is early yet to have endorsements and campaign fundraising will be a challenge.

“There’s a lot of big races going on. There’s a lot of interest in our representative in Congress, the Senate, Lieutenant Governor. It can be hard to get people to notice a race that’s like Secretary of State a little farther down. So it’s certainly going to be a challenge in a small pool like Vermont but we’ll make it happen.”

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