Updated at 5:11 p.m.
A veteran legislator from Bradford has joined the Democratic primary for secretary of state.
Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, D-Bradford, told VTDigger on Thursday that she intends to make her first run for statewide office, in hopes of succeeding retiring Secretary of State Jim Condos.
“I know the threats that we are facing to our democracy across the country and even here in Vermont and I want to be a champion for democracy,” she said in between roll-call votes on the House floor.
Copeland Hanzas was first elected to the House in 2004 and served as its majority leader from 2015 through 2016. She twice ran for speaker of the House and has chaired that chamber’s Government Operations Committee since 2019. The panel has jurisdiction over many of the same state functions overseen by the secretary of state’s office, including public records laws, elections and governmental ethics.
As chair of the government operations committee, Copeland Hanzas this session oversaw the redistricting process through which lawmakers redrew Vermont’s legislative map based on the latest Census data. She also co-chaired a special task force that successfully brokered a deal with state employee and teachers unions on a pension overhaul — although her relationship with labor was at times quite fractious.
Copeland Hanzas owned the Local Buzz coffee shop in downtown Bradford until it closed last year.
She is planning a formal campaign kickoff to take place on May 3.
Asked what would distinguish her from the other candidates already in the race, the Vermont Climate Solutions Caucus co-chair pointed to her long record in the Legislature.
“I have fought to move forward climate action. I have fought to end workplace sexual harassment. I have fought to modernize our sexual assault legislative language so that people are protected. I have been a champion of all of these various and complex things,” she said. “And I think that's what Vermonters will look to when they say who's got the proven skill set to run the Secretary of State's Office.”
Condos, a fellow Democrat, announced in February that he would not seek reelection this year after more than a decade in the post. Copeland Hanzas joins two others in the Democratic primary: Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters and Montpelier City Clerk John Odum.
Winters — who Condos has all but endorsed — has cast himself as a natural successor to the popular incumbent and touted his 25 years of experience in the Secretary of State’s Office.
Odum, who has championed such causes as non-citizen voting and same-day registration, is making a pitch that his background in information technology gives him an edge at a time in which election officials must now contend with mounting concerns over cybersecurity.
No Republican has yet announced a run, although Deputy Labor Commissioner Dustin Degree, a former state senator and aide to Gov. Phil Scott, is considering jumping into the race. Degree said Thursday he still hadn’t made a decision.
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