Politics

Vermont Democratic Party targets GOP over House candidate's Jan. 6 involvement

A lawn sign for John Lyddy, the Republican candidate for the Vermont House seat representing the Windham-6 district towns of Halifax, Whitingham and Wilmington. Photo by Kevin O’Connor/VTDigger

The Vermont Democratic Party is once again calling on the state GOP to denounce a Republican legislative candidate who claims he was present at the U.S. Capitol during the riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

The Democratic Party’s latest blast centers around one candidate vying to represent a southern Vermont district in the state House. But it follows a pattern of calling out Republicans who have denied the results of the 2020 election, and associating those individuals with the party’s more moderate stalwarts, such as Gov. Phil Scott.

“We know the Vermont Republican Party is filthy with insurrectionist sympathizers,” Vermont Democratic Party Executive Director Jim Dandeneau said in a Sunday news release, “but to be actively supporting a traitor like (John) Lyddy should be a bridge too far for Phil Scott’s party.” 

The candidate in question, John Lyddy of Whitingham, is running to represent the Windham-6 district, which includes Halifax, Whitingham and Wilmington, in the Vermont House. The seat is open; incumbent Rep. John Gannon, D-Wilmington, is not seeking reelection. Lyddy’s Democratic opponent is Tristan Roberts of Halifax.

On Jan. 6, 2021, at 7:38 p.m., Lyddy commented on another Facebook user’s post that he was at the Capitol. “Chris, I was there, with Sharon, an unarmed girl was shot and killed today,” Lyddy wrote. “I saw it all.”

Reached by phone, Lyddy refused to answer questions beyond confirming his identity. After the reporter indicated they worked with VTDigger, Lyddy said, “I don't speak to VTDigger. Thank you, bye” and hung up.

Both VTDigger and Seven Days previously reported that Lyddy, who had run for state Senate in 2020, rode on a bus that traveled to Washington, D.C., to protest the 2020 election results alongside fellow supporters of former President Donald Trump.

Sunday’s news release was not the first time state Democratic Party officials have said individual, far-right candidates indicate a systemic problem with the Republican Party at large. 

When Gregory Thayer, a former Rutland County GOP chair who also was present at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was running in Vermont’s Republican lieutenant gubernatorial primary, Dandeneau told VTDigger the party was “rife with extremists." Later, the Democratic Party compiled a list of primary candidates, all of whom remain on the ballot in the general election, who had publicly supported overturning the 2020 election results.

And as Democratic gubernatorial nominee Brenda Siegel challenges Scott — who remains enormously popular in Vermont, even with Democrats — Dandeneau has continually said that moderates like Scott are guilty by association with extremists and need to clean up their party.

Throughout the primary election cycle, Vermont Republican Party Chair Paul Dame maintained that the party cannot control who files to run for office as a Republican. The party can recruit candidates, but it can’t block someone from registering with the party.

On Monday, Dandeneau called that a “cop-out.”

“If you've got somebody that doesn't represent your party's values running for your nomination, you can find somebody to run against them,” Dandeneau said. “You can work to make sure that that person is not your nominee.”

In response to the Democratic Party’s weekend news release, Dame in a written statement on Monday did not disavow Lyddy, or even mention his name. Instead, Dame shot back at the Democratic Party for its “over-the-top rhetoric,” which he said is “designed to attract media attention and drive division and stir up hate.”

“After President Biden’s dark speech calling half of the country fascists, it appears that Vermont Democrats are bringing Washington politics to Vermont, and seeing how far they can push the envelope before voters push back on their negative campaigning,” Dame said, referring to Biden’s primetime address last month targeting “MAGA Republicans.”

Pressed on whether the GOP will rescind its support for Lyddy, Dame said via text message, “Lyddy has done a great job getting support for his campaign on his own merits and surpassed his planned fundraising goal. He doesn’t need a lot of resources from the state party.”

“But we aren’t going to let the Democrats bully us into changing which candidates we are supporting,” he said.

Asked on Monday about his opponent’s attendance on Jan. 6, 2021, Roberts in a written statement chastised Lyddy for doubting the validity of election results.

“This kind of rhetoric sows distrust and encourages citizens to stay home,” Roberts said. “It reduces the voice of our small towns in the democratic process at a time when many voters in Windham-6 tell me they feel unseen by both Montpelier and Washington. That’s unfortunate, and avoidable.”

Rep. Laura Sibilia, I-Dover, represents the nearby Windham-Bennington district. As an independent, Sibilia said she is concerned about extremism in both major parties, but in the case of extremist Republicans, “this is a group of folks who want to overturn our election, who are calling for violence against state and federal institutions.”

“I have a lot of friends who are Republicans or who used to be Republicans, and I appreciate that this is really difficult. But this feels like a line that can't be crossed, really,” Sibilia said. “Calling for violence, calling for overturning election results, doesn't feel like a place that you can accommodate or should accommodate.”

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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: smearhoff@vtdigger.org

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