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January 16, 2014

A Crowded Field Emerges to Replace Fox in the Senate

At least five Democrats are campaigning to fill a Chittenden County Senate seat opened up last week by the death of Sen. Sally Fox. 

The candidates include two incumbent House members, a former state party chairman, a major philanthropist and the runner-up in the 2012 race to represent Vermont's most populous county. More contenders could yet emerge.

While the decision ultimately rests with Gov. Peter Shumlin, he is likely to choose from a list of candidates — typically three — sent to him by the Chittenden County Democratic Committee. That group plans to meet next Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Fletcher Free Library to make its selection.

All five declared candidates have been calling and emailing the 80 county committee members eligible to vote. Only members who live within the district — which includes most of the county, but excludes Colchester, Huntington and Buel's Gore — can cast a ballot.

So who's running? Here's the list, thus far, in alphabetical order: 

IngramDebbie Ingram — A member of the Williston Selectboard and executive director of Vermont Interfaith Action, Ingram was one of six candidates to win the Democratic nomination for Senate in August 2012. She came in seventh place in the general election. Ingram did not return calls seeking comment Thursday, but she told the Burlington Free Press and WCAX-TV earlier in the week she plans to run.

JermanTim Jerman — First elected to the House in 2004, the Essex Junction resident serves on the House Committee on Natural Resources and Energy. A former human resources director for the Vermont Student Assistant Corporation, Jerman also is currently vice chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party.

Having served in the House for five terms, Jerman says he "knows all the players over there" and would be able to "hit the ground running." He notes that Essex has not sent a resident to the Senate "for many, many years."

"It would be a real honor for me to follow Sally in the seat," Jerman says. "We were friends for 30 years. I'm well aware of what her issues were and her priorities." 

Crea.LintilhacCrea Lintilhac — A philanthropist and major Democratic donor, the Shelburne resident has served as president of the Lintilhac Foundation since 1984. In 2012, the foundation donated more than $885,000 to organizations focusing on the environment, education and health care. Lintilhac serves on several boards, including those of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group and the Conservation Law Foundation.

"I've been working in the state in advocacy and have been running one of the larger foundations in the state for 30 years," she says. "So I have had a chance to have interactions with staff and leaders in the nonprofit world — from hospitals to universities, schools and, of course, environmental organizations. So I have an awareness and maybe insight into Vermonters' needs, because of the work I've done over the past three decades."

PerkinsonJake Perkinson — An attorney and political consultant, Perkinson served as chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party from July 2011 until March 2013. In that role, the Burlington resident turned what is typically a ceremonial position into practically a full-time job. He expanded the party's paid staff, presided over big wins in the 2012 general election and even put the party to work electing Miro Weinberger as the first Democratic mayor of Burlington in decades.

Reached Thursday, Perkinson confirmed that he's seeking the Senate seat, but declined to elaborate on his reasons.

"I'm still making my way through the committee list and, out of respect for folks on the committee, I want to make contact with them before I do anything public," he said.

Kesha.RamKesha Ram — First elected to the House in 2008 at the age of 22, Ram now serves on the House Ways & Means Committee. The Burlington resident previously worked for Women Helping Battered Women and is currently employed by the city of Burlington as a public engagement specialist for its Community and Economic Development Office. 

The decision to seek a seat in the Senate "took some really careful consideration," she says. "I am happy in the House. I feel good about the work I do."

"For me, Sally was a mentor and a friend, and it felt like it was more the way that she lived her life that allowed someone like me to be here and to even be considering seeking this appointment," Ram says. "I think the combination of honoring Sally's legacy and winning in November is a tough one, and I think I have what it takes to do that."

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