A conversation with Becca Balint on her primary win and upcoming general election campaign for Vermont’s U.S. House seat
Vermont has never sent a woman to Congress, but in the wake of last week’s primary that may change soon. Current Vermont Senate Pro-Tem Becca Balint decisively won the Democratic primary for the state’s at-large House seat with 59.6 percent of the vote. The unofficial tally shows her closest contender, Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray, received 36.4 percent and Dr. Louis Meyers 1.5 percent. Reached after her win, Balint previewed the general election and talked with WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley about why her primary campaign resonated with voters.
We were so pleased that our plan, you know, of organization and the campaign tone that we wanted to set that we were able to do it in a way that felt true and right to us. And it worked. It worked.
What do you think resonated with the voters?
A couple of things. I know that it matters a lot to Vermonters to have somebody with experience. And I had come up through the Vermont Senate in the same way that Peter Welch, our current House member had done. I was majority leader and President Pro Tem, as Congressman Welch has been when he was in the Vermont Senate, and have a lot of successes that I can point to within the legislature, you know, bills that I helped to get passed, coalitions I helped to build and I think that really mattered. The other thing that I know resonated, because people told me, is this message of we have to be kind and we have to be courageous in this time when there is so much hatred and so much division. And Vermonters kept saying to me I want to be able to talk to my neighbors again even if we disagree on politics. And people don't like the direction that we're heading in with the level of anger and vitriol. And I talked about that a lot on the stump.
You mentioned that voters really wanted somebody with experience and your major opponent in the primary also had some experience. What do you make of your margin of victory?
It was a wide margin. We were surprised by it too. I attribute it to, there are issues that a lot of Vermonters care about right now, especially primary voters. They care about reproductive rights. They care about sensible gun laws. They care about having an economy that is working for people who are at the bottom and in the middle. And I had been able to point to actual legislation that I passed on reproductive rights, codifying Roe here in Vermont; voted in support and was able to pass minimum wage increases when I was majority leader and investments in housing and making sure that we were doing everything that we could to pass more sensible gun laws when I was in leadership. And so the issues that were really important to Vermonters I could point to actual legislation that I passed. And we have a Republican governor here. He is a moderate Republican, but he is somebody that often vetoes the work that we do. And so I also had to cobble together coalitions to override gubernatorial vetoes. And I think the message of looking out for regular people really, really resonated with so many voters regardless of where they were on the political spectrum.
Becca, it's been said in Vermont and outside of Vermont, that the winner of the Democratic primary for U.S. House in Vermont is expected to win the November election and be the next U.S. House representative. What do you think of now being the anticipated winner in November?
You're right. I really appreciate the question, Pat. The assumption is given how Vermonters tend to vote in federal elections and the number of people who identify as Democrats versus Republicans in Vermont. So I do have a very good chance of winning the general. But on my team we don't take anything for granted. We're going to run a really good, tight, general election campaign. And I really want it to be a campaign where Vermonters, again of all political stripes, feel like I'm going to be a champion for them in Congress. And, you know as my friends say, don't get a swelled head Balint! And Ed Markey, who's a senator from Massachusetts, he said to my team the other day: 'Only the Paranoid Survive!' And he said like you have to as a candidate never take anything for granted. And I really take that to heart.
Democrat Becca Balint faces Republican Liam Madden in the November election for Vermont’s U.S. House seat. Ericka Bundy Redic, who lost the Republican primary to Madden, has said she will run as a Libertarian. Progressive Barbara Nolfi is also running to replace Democratic Congressman Peter Welch, who won the primary to replace retiring Senator Patrick Leahy.