By Gareth Henderson
It was a rollicking election night with big changes at the local level – especially when it comes to House races in Hartland and Killington.
Republican challenger and businessman Jim Eckhardt pulled off an upset when he defeated incumbent Megan Smith, to take the House seat representing Bridgewater, Chittenden, Killington and Mendon. Eckhardt took Killington and Bridgewater by 80 and 114 points, respectively, on his way to a 362-point win overall.
“Five months of hard work, and it paid off,” said Eckhardt, who ran a long door-to-door campaign. “It’s the economy and jobs.”
Among Eckhardt’s goals are simplifying the Act 250 permit process and consolidating the state’s 200 school districts into 16 regional districts. But for Eckhardt, the first order of business is talking to voters and hearing their ideas.
“I want to get together with the school board chairs in my towns and talk to them about school funding,” Eckhardt said, adding that teachers will be part of those discussions as well. “The teachers, they’ve got some ideas, so I want to hear their ideas and see how I can bring them forward.”
On Tuesday night, Smith – who was vying for a second term – knew she would come up empty when the losing result from Killington came in.
“I just think we’re two very different candidates, and the people spoke, and I wish him the best,” she said.
Election night in Hartland and West Windsor also saw a change of party. On Wednesday morning, Democrat John Bartholomew was celebrating his significant victory over Republican Roy Moffitt. The 433-point win made Bartholomew the first Democrat to represent the Hartland-West Windsor district in 10 years.
In 2008, Bartholomew, a retired U.S. Public Health Service Captain, nearly defeated longtime Republican lawmaker Steve Adams. The seat opened up when Adams stepped down earlier this year. On Tuesday night, Bartholomew took Hartland by a count of 888-550, and won West Windsor 314-219.
As Bartholomew put it, “now the real work begins.” When asked which issues he would tackle first, he said he would wait to make that call.
“Not being an incumbent, it’s so hard to say,” Bartholomew noted. “I have to get a feel for how everything works.”
He added, “I want to reiterate to all the folks in my district that I’m available, and I need to hear from them.”
Bartholomew and Moffitt heard from a number of people over the course of this busy campaign, as they visited homes to hear voters’ concerns.
“I made it to every door I could find,” Bartholomew said.
For Hartland’s new representative, the next big door to open will be the State House. Like Hartland, the governor’s office also went from red to blue Tuesday night. Republican candidate Brian Dubie conceded the race to Democratic Senator Peter Shumlin Wednesday morning, with Shumlin leading by about 2 percentage points.
Bartholomew said he was obviously pleased with that result, but he also pointed out that many voters are concerned about the Democrats having too much control – with a strong majority in the legislature already.
“We have to be conscious that a lot of people would rather not have it that way, and their needs have to be met like everyone else,” Bartholomew said.
Rep. Alison Clarkson of Woodstock and Rep. Mark Mitchell of Barnard were each unopposed in their bids for reelection.
By Gareth Henderson