Politics

With 3 more departures, more than a 3rd of Vermont’s state senators plan to vacate their seats

From left Sens. Corey Parent, R-Franklin, Michael Sirotkin, D-Chittenden, and Alice Nitka, D-Windsor, have all opted not to seek reelection. Courtesy photos

Three more state senators have announced their imminent departures from the Vermont Statehouse — making for at least 11 exiting members of the 30-person body.

Sens. Alice Nitka, D-Windsor, Michael Sirotkin, D-Chittenden, and Corey Parent, R-Franklin, have all opted not to seek reelection after 15, eight and three years in the Senate, respectively.

Nitka could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon, but Senate Majority Leader Alison Clarkson, D-Windsor, confirmed to VTDigger that Nitka is bowing out, having “had a great run.”

Sirotkin told VTDigger on Monday that he didn’t reach his decision to leave office until a few days prior. Two years of pandemic-era legislating has shifted his priorities, and after landing a couple landmark successes this session, he said, he thought the time was right.

“I felt there was a need for some new blood,” he said. “I felt it was time to step aside and give some other people — younger people, generally — a chance to take the spot.”

Since 2019, Sirotkin has served as chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs. He said one of his proudest achievements was getting past the finish line a bill to raise Vermont’s minimum wage to $12.55 per hour. And in terms of regrets, he wishes more of his colleagues rallied around his bill to establish paid family leave — but he hopes to see future legislatures carry that torch.

Sirotkin’s entrance into the Senate was “bittersweet,” he said. He was appointed to his late wife’s seat in 2014, one month after she died. Sen. Sally Fox, D-Chittenden, had served in the Legislature for 17 years.

“I hope I've done her legacy justice,” Sirotkin said.

Parent began his legislative career in 2015 when, at 24 years old, he began his first term in the Vermont House. In 2018, he was elected to the Senate.

Now he’s 31, and being young — specifically, a young dad — is what has made his job untenable recently, he said. He pointed to his colleague Sen. Joshua Terenzini, R-Rutland, as another young parent in the Senate who is exiting because of family obligations.

“We're entering our prime earning years, and it's really difficult to make ends meet when you're doing the legislative stuff and working full time outside of that,” he said. “I've been lucky to have a few employers through that time who have always been supportive. But, you know, the patience wears thin, even if they don't verbalize it.”

Parent has been an anomaly in the Senate during his years in office; he’s a young Republican. He admits it’s not an “overly popular” role in a state like Vermont. But on the way out of office, he said, he’s concerned about the direction of the Republican Party as a whole.

“I was hoping things would get better nationally when (former President Donald) Trump was off-stage, but it seems like they're, at the very best, the same. But it seems to be getting worse,” he said. “That's disconcerting. I think leadership with the national Republican Party is driving in a direction I don't want to see the party go.”

Parent said he’d consider running for office again down the line. But asked if he’d jump into one of the many other open races this election cycle, he said he’s not planning on it.

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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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