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Democratic and Republican candidates for Vermont Secretary of State debate

Screenshot of League of Women Voters of Vermont Secretary of State debate. At table from left: John Odum, Chris Winters, Sarah Copeland Hanzas and H. Brooke Paige
League of Women Voters of Vermont
Kingdom Access TV
Screenshot of League of Women Voters of Vermont debate. At table from left: John Odum, Chris Winters, Sarah Copeland Hanzas, and H. Brooke Paige

Candidates running for the open Vermont Secretary of State seat debated Wednesday.

Four of the five candidates traveled to St. Johnsbury for the in-person and virtual debate hosted by the League of Women Voters of Vermont. League President Sue Racanelli explained the importance of the race.

“The new Secretary of State will play a vital role in administering and overseeing state elections, ensuring that elections for all levels of office are fair and leading Vermont’s efforts to protect our most fundamental of rights: the right to vote," Racanelli said. "In addition the office manages many other aspects of state government related to business, professional licensing and public records. The person who fills this role is critically important.”

Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos is stepping down after a dozen years.

Bradford Democratic House Representative Sarah Copeland Hanzas said she’s is a proven leader who can strengthen the office.

“Now more than ever our democracy is under threat from intentional misinformation to voter suppression to now elections deniers seeking to infiltrate Secretaries of State offices around the country," Hanzas said. "It is important that we elect a Secretary of State with a strong track record of leadership and who can navigate the complex environment that we have upcoming.”

Current Deputy Secretary of State Democrat Chris Winters said he has the experience to lead the office.

“I believe in safe, secure and accurate elections," Winters said. "I believe in transparency as the key to rebuilding public trust. I believe in efficient and effective systems to boost the economy. And I believe in defending our democracy through civics, civil discourse and media literacy.”

Montpelier City Clerk Democrat John Odum said there are ways to assure Vermonters that elections are safe and fair.

“All election administrators and Secretaries of State are reporting on misinformation that is happening in their community or that they’re observing nationwide. It’s a terrific resource. But it’s a resource that Vermont clerks are not using," Odum said. "So what the Secretary of State’s office can do is be a hub. Get it right back out to the local clerks.”

Republican candidate H. Brooke Paige said one of the biggest problems with elections is that a portion of the population has become disenchanted with the process. He opposes initiatives such as ranked choice voting or universal mail in ballots.

“Voting in person on Election Day is a proud tradition that must be preserved," Paige said. "Early and absentee voting should remain as a way to ensure that citizens who are unavailable on Election Day can exercise their voting franchise.”

Progressive Robert Millar was invited but unable to participate.

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