Facing blank ballot, Republicans pick five nominees in state races

By Xander Landen

Facing a largely empty ballot just days away from this year’s general election candidate deadline, the Vermont Republican Party selected five nominees last week for statewide and federal offices.

Before this year’s primary on Aug. 14, Republicans struggled to find a slate of candidates to take on incumbent Democrats in top offices.

That opened the way perennial contender H. Brooke Paige to sweep up six GOP nominations in mostly uncontested primary races. He withdrew from five of those contests last week so other candidates could step forward.

Paige, who is still running against incumbent Democrat Jim Condos for secretary of state, has said he ran in the primary to secure the seats for Republicans.

At its meeting Aug. 29, party members voted for nominees in two contested bids for the open spots, and tapped nominees who were unopposed for three others.

In the race for the U.S. Senate seat held by incumbent Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Republicans nominated Lawrence Zupan, who ran against Paige in the primary.

Zupan said he plans on inviting Sanders to take part in eight debates with him, and criticized the sitting senator for spending too much time out of state.

Taking on incumbent U.S. Rep. Peter Welch is Anya Tynio, who also lost against Paige in the primary but did not face any competition Wednesday.

Tynio, 25, works in advertising — currently as a sales rep for the Newport Daily News. A Second Amendment advocate who hopes to foster Vermont’s agricultural sector and draw more young people to the state, Tynio said Welch has been an ineffective leader in Congress.

In the race for attorney general, Republicans chose Janssen Willhoit, a defense attorney and outgoing state representative from St. Johnsbury, to challenge incumbent TJ Donovan.

Willhoit said that in the House Judiciary Committee, where he served for his last two years in the Legislature, he was a strong advocate for criminal justice reform and would go further than Donovan has in improving the system in Vermont offering bail reform as an example.

For auditor, Republicans appointed Rick Kenyon, a tax preparer from Brattleboro, to run against incumbent Doug Hoffer; they chose party treasurer Rick Morton to challenge sitting state treasurer, Beth Pearce.

Jack Moulton, executive director of the Vermont GOP, called the crop of candidates Republicans nominated “fantastic.”

But Moulton acknowledged that the party faces some blame for the Republicans’ poor primary showing.

“We actively recruited constantly for 24 months before the primary process started, but there were faults that we all found and that we’ll reassess as we go into 2020,” he said.

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