Politics

Secretary of State Jim Condos announces retirement after 11 years in post

Secretary of State Jim Condos speaks during the statewide canvass of the Vermont 2020 general election results in Montpelier on Nov. 10, 2020. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Updated at 5:53 p.m.

After more than a decade in office, Secretary of State Jim Condos is retiring from his post overseeing Vermont’s statewide elections system at the end of his current term.

The 30-plus-year veteran of local and state politics announced his plan to vacate his seat in a Tuesday afternoon virtual news conference.

Asked if he had any intentions to run for a different seat in public office, he said, “I’m hopeful that I will be retired.”

“In this business, I've learned never to say never, but that’s not my intent. I’m 71,” he said, adding that he’d like to spend more time with his family, and maybe even take a vacation during Town Meeting week.

Condos was first elected to his seat in 2010 after serving as a state senator for Chittenden County for eight years and South Burlington city councilor for 18 years.

On Tuesday, he said he is proud of his office’s ability to “operate in a nonpartisan, non-political manner,” and the office’s move from paper to electronic processing and documentation over the course of his tenure. He also said his office has “been able to do a lot more with a lot less,” citing conservative spending that allowed the office to stay up and running just from its own fees.

Condos also said his office has made progress to make elections more accessible to Vermonters. Simultaneously, across the country, politicians and others have promulgated false claims questioning the integrity of U.S. election systems. Condos said the trend is “disheartening to see,” and that he “thank(s) the Lord that we don't have that situation here in Vermont, but it does exist.”

“The concern I have is that there's this massive disinformation, misinformation campaign going on across the country, using social media, whether it be Twitter or Facebook — or whatever the social media platform is — through the media, in some cases,” he said. “And really, we have to take a step back. Our democracy is in dire straits right now. And I really believe that we have to take steps to retake and reset the democratic principles that we have always operated under.”

Condos’ announcement comes as the state goes through its once-in-a-decade process of redrawing legislative district lines. And this year, state lawmakers are facing a tight deadline, crunched by the U.S. Census Bureau’s tardiness. Lawmakers need to get the job done by April 1.

This is Condos’ second time overseeing redistricting as secretary, and before then, he was on the Senate Reapportionment Committee as a state senator in 2001 and 2002. He said the Secretary of State’s Office is “on the periphery” while the Legislature works to pass its own maps, and that he would like to see Vermont look to other states’ systems “to see if we can find a way to do this in a better, more efficient way.”

“It's kind of convoluted right now because we have a Legislative Apportionment Board, which is partisan. And then we go to the Legislature, which is also partisan,” he said. “So I would like to see it get to a point where it really is a nonpartisan board.”

Who will replace Condos?

As for his successor, Condos would not confirm whether his deputy secretary of state of seven years Chris Winters would step up to the plate, but said he is “considering” it. And while he denied that it was an endorsement, he offered special thanks to Winters on Tuesday, calling him “a tremendous asset and indispensable partner, carrying out the work to make our office more efficient, more credible and more accountable.”

From the Legislature, Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, D-Bradford, told VTDigger Tuesday afternoon that she is “considering” making a run for the spot. As chair of the House Government Operations Committee, she is currently overseeing the House’s reapportionment process, and as a business owner, she said she has interacted a lot with the Secretary of State’s Office over the years.

With national players sowing doubt into the security of election systems, Copeland Hanzas said “that probably means that now is a more important time than ever for somebody who doesn't mind speaking clearly and forcefully and taking a punch now and then to get into that position.”

“There's also some less savory personalities who probably would like to target secretaries of state for the stance that I'm talking about,” she said. “But we have to stand up for democracy if we believe in democracy. We're not going to continue to have it if we allow these forces to undermine voters’ confidence.”

Also potentially throwing his hat in the ring is Montpelier City Clerk John Odum. While unofficial, the longtime political activist told VTDigger Tuesday that he is “seriously considering” a run and "will make (his) decision in the next couple weeks."

Paul Heintz contributed to this report.

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Sarah Mearhoff

About Sarah

Sarah Mearhoff is one of VTDigger's political reporters, covering the Vermont statehouse, executive branch and congressional delegation. Prior to joining Digger, she covered Minnesota and South Dakota state politics for Forum Communications' newspapers across the Upper Midwest for three years. She has also covered politics in Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, she is a proud alumna of the Pennsylvania State University where she studied journalism.

Email: [email protected]

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