After failing to find an alternative, Vermont GOP re-nominates H. Brooke Paige for state treasurer

H. Brooke Paige
H. Brooke Paige was renominated for state treasurer after the Vermont Republican Party failed to find another nominee. File photo by Bob LoCicero/VTDigger

Perennial political candidate H. Brooke Paige is back in the race to serve as Vermont’s next state treasurer.

After winning the Republican primary on Aug. 9, as well as three other statewide primaries for various executive offices, Paige earlier this month rescinded his GOP nomination in the treasurer’s race. The Vermont Republican Party attempted to tee up a candidate to replace Paige on the ballot by last Friday’s deadline but couldn’t find anyone, according to party chair Paul Dame.

Eric Covey, chief of staff for the Secretary of State’s Office, confirmed to VTDigger that the party had re-nominated Paige.

Now, Paige will face Vermont’s former financial regulation commissioner, Mike Pieciak, in November’s general election. Pieciak has the support of Democratic power players in the state, including outgoing Treasurer Beth Pearce, who announced in May that she would retire due to health challenges.

When Paige decided to compete in four statewide contests in the Aug. 9 primary, he said he intended to be a placeholder candidate. He vowed to GOP officials that he would rescind his nominations in all but one race and allow the party to nominate replacement candidates for the November election. On Aug. 19, Paige stuck to the plan, pulling out of the running for treasurer, auditor and attorney general — and remaining only in the race for secretary of state.

“I always viewed my responsibility to be like, if there was an open parking space in front of the Capitol Plaza and you’re pulling your car around the block, I would stand in the parking space,” Paige told VTDigger on Monday. “That's how I viewed what I was doing.”

Dame told VTDigger that, two days after Paige dropped out of the three contests, the GOP’s executive committee met in Montpelier to nominate replacement candidates. The committee voted to nominate a reluctant Wendy Wilton, who previously served as state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, as well as Rutland City treasurer. Wilton also challenged Pearce for state treasurer in 2012. When she agreed over the phone to run, Dame said, those in the room began chanting her name.

But the following morning, Monday, Aug. 22, Wilton called Dame to back out. Dame told VTDigger that the move sent the party on a “roller coaster” — having to find a new candidate for treasurer in just four days, before the secretary of state’s nomination deadline.

“On Sunday night, I felt good because we did something that I don't think we've done in 10 years, which was put a different person for every race on the ballot, and then we had Wendy Wilton back out Monday morning,” Dame told VTDigger. “So there was a bit of a scramble to try to find somebody on basically four days' notice, and that's a big ask.”

H. Brooke Paige, a perennial political candidate, often for several offices at once, attends the statewide canvass of Vermont 2022 primary election results at the Secretary of State’s Office in Montpelier on Tuesday, Aug. 22. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

In those four days, Dame said, he had a few bites from interested candidates. Economist and former-state Rep. Robert Bancroft of Westford was interested but ultimately declined, Dame said. So was Lt. Col. Michael Titus of the Vermont National Guard, according to Dame, but he was unable because of his duties with the Guard.

Paige said of the candidates he attempted to recruit for various offices in state government, including the treasurer’s office, “they're just so tired of all of the chaos in Vermont elections. Nobody wants to get involved anymore.”

“It's kind of like you're trying to hire the crew on the Titanic after it hits the iceberg,” Paige said. “And I'm the only one that's soldiering on here, like we're going to save the boat somehow.”

Vermont Democratic Party executive director Jim Dandeneau said he had not expected Paige to be re-nominated in the treasurer’s race. But he said he does believe that the opposing party’s inability to nominate a replacement candidate is “a sign of where the Republican Party is at now.”

Dame took over as chair of the state Republican Party last November, and this is his first election cycle heading it. He told VTDigger on Monday that the party has “done better recruiting this year than we have in the past, but there's certainly a lot more work to do.” He pointed to past election cycles when, in the absence of a Republican candidate, Democrats such as Secretary of State Jim Condos were able to run in November under both the Democratic and Republican party lines.

“We’ve made some good progress, but maybe we're not quite halfway to being at a much stronger position than where I hope to lead the party for 2024,” Dame said Monday.

Dame has repeatedly criticized Vermont Democratic officials for, according to him, anointing their successors when they exit office. He said it was important for the GOP to nominate a challenger to Pieciak, especially because the Vermont Progressive Party nominee, Don Schramm, dropped out.

“One responsibility of the Republican Party in Vermont is at least to challenge the Democrats, and Brooke will do that,” Dame said. He pointed in particular to Pieciak’s role as deputy commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation as it was investigating the EB-5 investor visa scandal centered around Jay Peak Resort. “And so, if there will be debates, Brooke will be able to put those questions up and give voters a choice.”

Dandeneau said he’s confident in Pieciak’s chances, though he isn’t taking a victory for granted.

“Mike's a spectacular candidate, Dandeneau said. “We are doing everything in our power to make sure that Mike runs a robust field operation and we're going to kick some butt this year.”

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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: [email protected]

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