BENNINGTON - Sen. Bob Hartwell, D-Bennington, announced Wednesday that he will not seek reelection to the Vermont Senate, citing a complexity of reasons. In the same day, Rep. Brian Campion, D-Bennington 2-1, declared his intention to run for Hartwell's seat.
Campion must collect 100 nominating signatures by the senate filing deadline on June 12. Following the filing date, Campion said he will begin a joint campaign with the bid for reelection by Sen. Richard Sears, D-Bennington. "I'm excited to be running alongside Senator Sears," Campion said during a visit to the Banner along with Hartwell and Sears Wednesday afternoon. "We will be running as a team I thought about this opportunity in the future, but I'm excited to run now.
Sears said health care, the state's economy, rising property taxes and education will be the foundation to his and Campion's campaign. Campion served on the house of representatives education committee for four years. "All of these issues are intertwined ... I think working with teachers, parents and others is the way for us to put together a comprehensive education plan for this state," he said.
Campion said he will seek the guidance of both Hartwell and Sears moving forward into his senate campaign. They both added their signatures Wednesday to the first dozen Campion had already collected for his filing petition. "They have both been great to me: Not only with the endorsement, but up in (Montpelier).
Campion said the primary facet of his campaign will be talking to residents door to door. "I think that is really the Vermont way to do it: Get to know people, talk about myself, ask questions, find out what people's priorities are and plan to do a lot of that up until election day."
Sears said he was taken by surprise when Hartwell told him last week that he was not seeking reelection. "I had no idea, quite frankly," Sears said. "I was unprepared, but then I sent an email to Brian and to President Pro Tempore John Campbell. We are glad that Brian is willing to step in. "
Hartwell endorsed Campion's campaign for the house of representatives in 2010, and said his faith in Campion as a legislator has been reinforced during Campion's four years in the legislature. He said he hopes to see Campion as his successor.
Hartwell will leave behind his membership to the administrative rules committee, finance committee and legislative information technology committee in the senate. He chairs the committee on natural resources and energy, which he said he felt most passionately about. "It's a tough assignment loaded with policy, opinion and problems that don't get funded, but it is very important," Hartwell said.
Hartwell said that he intends to remain heavily involved battling legal issues regarding the environment and land use in Vermont, but even more so on the Massachusetts coast.
Hartwell married Wendy Woods-Hartwell of Cape Cod, Mass., in October 2013. He said his primary reason for not running is to enable him to move to Cape Cod and spend time with his family and wife. "I will be able to continue to pursue my passion for the environment and land conservation while enjoying the waters in and around Pleasant Bay," he said.
The senator said other considerations went into his deciding not to run for a fifth term, but that he will miss the Bennington community more than he will the legislature.
"I am somewhat concerned that the Washington, D.C., syndrome of partisanship and the displeasure that comes with it is going to sweep over the states, and even in Vermont," Hartwell said. "It is not an environment that I work very well in: I'm kind of a moderate. Getting shot at by one side is one thing. Getting shot at by both sides is a little more difficult."
Campion and Sears will be running a joint campaign for two two-year seats in the Bennington district of the senate. The primary election will be August 26. The general election is November 4.
With the retirement of Rep. Anne Mook, D-Bennington 2-2, and Campion's campaign for the senate, two of the four Bennington state representative seats are open to candidates without incumbency.
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