Townsend Interested In House Seat

Front Page / Aug. 14, 2008 12:00am EDT

By M. D. Drysdale

Townsend Interested In House Seat

By M. D. Drysdale

Randolph Selectman Larry Townsend has told local Democrats that he will run for the late Jim Hutchinson’s seat in the Vermont House of Representatives.

Hutchinson died of a sudden heart attack at his home July 28. His name is already on the Democratic ballot for the September primary election, as he was running for his third term in the legislature.

Hutchinson, along with Rep. Patsy French of Randolph, represented the four towns of Randolph, Brookfield, Braintree and Granville in the legislature.

Any Democrat hoping to replace Hutchinson in that seat may take one of two paths to receive the Democratic nomination on the November ballot.

He or she may campaign as a write-in candidate in the primary election. If his or her name receives more votes than Hutchinson’s, then he or she will be nominated, along with Rep. French.

However, if Hutchinson’s name is one of the two top vote-getters in the primary election, there will be an official opening to be filled, on account of his death. If that happens, the Democratic caucus of the legislative district can meet and pick a Democratic running mate for French.

The caucus would be made up of the Democratic Committee members from the towns in the district. However, according to the Secretary of State’s office, Granville does not currently have a town committee, so the decision would be made by the 29 committee members from the other three towns. (See sidebar)

Townsend was one of Hutchinson’s oldest friends and a classmate in the Class of 1965 at the high school. He delivered a moving tribute to his friend at the memorial service held Aug. 2 at the Pico Ski Area.

He said this week he is leaning toward the caucus approach, rather than being a write-in candidate in the primary. The reason, he said, was simple: "I want to vote for Jim one more time."

He noted that the caucus strategy has its risks, as he would not start officially campaigning until after the primary election. Also, another Democrat could possibly win a write-in nomination so that there would be no chance for the caucus to choose him as a candidate.

‘Independent Democrat’

Townsend has not exactly been a life-long Democrat. When he first became interested in running, in 2004, it would have been as a Republican, he said, and he was introduced around Montpelier by former Orange County Sen. Stephen Webster. Townsend also said that he has regularly voted for Republican Jim Douglas, both for state treasurer and in all three of his campaigns for governor.

He said he liked to think of himself as an "independent Democrat" but now is "closer to being a Democrat than an independent."

"How I will vote if I get there—that will depend on the issue," he pledged.

Still, he said, local Democrats have bonded together to ask him to run this year.

Patrick French (Patsy’s husband) confirmed that "I feel Larry would be a good replacement" and said other Democrats feel the same way.

A "kitchen cabinet" meeting of area Democrats was scheduled for the French household this week to discuss strategy for his candidacy.

Local Offices

Townsend comes to statewide politics with a great deal of service and experience on the local level.

He has been on the selectboard three different times—once for six years beginning in 1979, again in for two years about 1990, and then again starting in 2004 to the present. He has also served two stints on the RUHS school board—from 1986-90 and again for two years in the ‘90s.

Townsend, a longtime employee of the Randolph Post Office, also worked at ClearSource until it closed down this summer. Now he is a jack-of-all-trades at Endyne, Inc. an environmental laboratory on Route 66.

On summer weekends he helps his wife Judy, a former elementary teacher, manage her restaurant "Onion Flats" between Bethel and Randolph.

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