NEK legislators criticized for voting against Capitol riots resolution

Crowd with Trump flags
Rioters broke through barricades and clashed with police in a violent disruption of Congress Jan. 6. Photo (c) 2021 by Mukul Ranjan

In Holland, a town of a few hundred residents, a selectboard member has condemned three local lawmakers for opposing the Legislature’s resolution to condemn the riot Jan. 6, when hundreds of supporters of then-President Donald Trump broke into the U.S. Capitol.

State Reps. Lynn Batchelor and Brian Smith, both Derby Republicans, were among the 16 House members who voted against a resolution Jan. 8 that lambasted the Capitol invasion and called for Trump’s removal or resignation. 

And Sen. Russ Ingalls, R-Essex-Orleans, was the only senator to oppose the resolution.

That didn’t sit well with Holland Selectboard member Andy Bouchard, whose town the legislators represent.

“Even if their vote in Montpelier didn’t change consequences in Washington, Brian Smith, Lynn Batchelor and Russ Ingalls are on the record preferring to stand aside rather than intervene when law enforcement is killed and government is interrupted,” Bouchard said at a Jan. 12 meeting, according to a copy of board minutes.

Bouchard called the legislators’ votes a “dangerous precedent,” the minutes state.

The comments are a microcosm of nationwide tensions spurred when hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol while Senate and House members and the vice president were inside, certifying the results of the presidential election. Five people died, including a police officer, and hundreds of people have been arrested.

Smith said Wednesday he wished the Holland board member had simply talked to him. 

“It’s a shame that he didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to call me and ask my opinion of it before he started ranting,” Smith said.

Smith called the Capitol invasion “terribly disgusting” but voted against the legislative measure because it was worded too harshly. He said the resolution painted too broad a stroke against Trump supporters, had been rushed, and needlessly called for Trump’s removal from office.

“Had they changed the wording in it, I probably could’ve supported it,” Smith said.

He said more constituents have told him they supported his vote than have criticized it.

Brian Smith
Rep. Brian Smith, R-Derby, listens during a November 2019 public forum. Photo by Elizabeth Gribkoff/VTDigger

“All he had to do was call me,” Smith said of Bouchard. “He might’ve understood.”

Neither Bouchard nor Batchelor could be reached for comment.

But Batchelor said during a caucus that she would not support the resolution, noting there had been no calls to condemn Black Lives Matter protests and other such events last year.

Ingalls, who was elected last year, said he received more than 1,700 messages in response to his vote and a letter he wrote explaining it. 

“Ninety-one percent of that response is favorable to my position,” he said. “That’s as simple as it can get.”

He declined comment on Bouchard’s statement, but said his vote “wasn’t about Donald Trump — it was about, if we’re going to hold elected officials accountable, let’s hold all elected officials accountable,” referring to Democrats he believes have not acknowledged riots across the country in the past year.

Not all legislators in the Kingdom voted with the three Bouchard called out. 

Rep. Katherine Sims, D-Craftsbury, was one of four lead sponsors of the measure. And co=sponsoring the resolution were Reps. Scott Beck, R-St. Johnsbury; Scott Campbell, D-St. Johnsbury; Martha Feltus, R-Lyndon; Mike Marcotte, R-Coventry; Henry Pearl, D-Danville; Chip Troiano, D-Stannard; and Patrick Seymour, R-Sutton.

This story has been updated to include the actions of additional Northeast Kingdom area legislators.

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Justin Trombly

About Justin

Justin Trombly covers the Northeast Kingdom for VTDigger. Before coming to Vermont, he handled breaking news, wrote features and worked on investigations at the Tampa Bay Times, the largest newspaper in Florida. He grew up across Lake Champlain in upstate New York, where he worked for The Buffalo News, the Glens Falls Post-Star and the Plattsburgh Press Republican. He studied English and political science at the University of Rochester.

Email: [email protected]

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