MIDDLEBURY — The Aug. 24 primary provided a lot of fireworks, but Addison County saw arguably its biggest political bombshell detonate two days after the election.
Rep. Steve Maier, D-Middlebury, officially withdrew from the Nov. 2 general election ballot on Thursday, thereby giving the Middlebury Democratic Committee seven days in which to pick someone to run in his stead.
Maier, chairman of the House Health Care Committee, said he will not seek a fifth consecutive two-year term in the House in order to pursue a new career opportunity. Maier had not yet finalized his new job as the Addison Independent went to press on Friday, but confirmed it will be in the health care field — an area in which he has developed considerable expertise during his legislative career.
“Serving in the Vermont Legislature has been an incredible honor and one of the best things I have done in my life,” Maier, 54, said on Thursday, the day he officially asked the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office to take his name off the Nov. 2 ballot. He and fellow incumbent Rep. Betty Nuovo, D-Middlebury, faced no challengers in their quest for another term in the two-seat Addison-1 House district.
Maier was first elected to the House in 2002, not long after retiring from an 11-year stint as manager of the Addison County Solid Waste Management District. He was named to the House Health Care Committee in 2005, and was eventually picked to chair the panel. It’s a committee that immersed itself in health care reform and was instrumental in developing the state’s Catamount Health insurance program for low- to moderate-income Vermonters.
Recent months have seen Maier work with the Vermont Health Care Reform Commission and Harvard Professor William Hsiao to design three new health care models — including a single-payer system — for the state.
Maier does not believe the state’s ongoing health care reform efforts will slide after he leaves Montpelier.
“There is a rich group of talent in the Legislature,” Maier said. “I think we will be fine.”
Maier, in his letter confirming his withdrawal from the election, outlined some of what he considered to be the House’s biggest achievements during his tenure.
“We accomplished much during this time, from health care reform and renewable energy to ensuring that our most vulnerable citizens receive the care and support they need, even in tough budget times,” reads his letter, reprinted on Page 5 of this edition. “There were many highlights, but perhaps the most significant was the privilege of casting a vote (last year) to help secure marriage equality for all Vermonters.”
While Maier sorts out his new job prospect, the Middlebury Town Democratic Committee (MTDC) is soliciting nominations from local Democrats interested in taking Maier’s spot on the ballot.
The nine-person committee will gather at the Ilsley Public Library at 5 p.m. this Tuesday, Aug. 31, to consider nominees. Beth Diamond, chairwoman of the MTDC, said the panel has until Thursday, Sept. 2, in which to produce a name. Chapter 17, section 2386 of the Vermont Statutes Annotated stipulates that: “In the case of the death or withdrawal of a candidate after the primary election, the party committee shall have seven days from the date of the withdrawal to nominate a candidate. In no event, shall a statement be filed later than 60 days prior to the election.”
Any Middlebury Democrats interested in joining Nuovo on the ballot should contact Diamond at 388-9505.
East Middlebury’s Amy Sheldon, who lost a close write-in contest in last week’s Democrat primary for state Senate, confirmed she would like to be considered as Maier’s replacement on the ballot.
“We want to make it clear this will be an open process and we will look at all the candidates who come forward,” Diamond said.
She expressed appreciation for Maier’s service to the state.
“Steve Maier has done a great job in Montpelier, and (the MTDC) wishes him well in his future endeavors,” Diamond said.
Maier hopes to serve out the balance of his term, which ends when his successor is sworn in in January. No legislative business is scheduled before then.
Maier is looking forward to a new challenge.
“It’s the right move for me professionally, personally and financially,” said Maier, who has two children in college.
Nuovo said on Friday she is sorry to see Maier take his name off the ballot, but respects his decision.
“I will miss Steve,” Nuovo said. “He is a very good friend and we worked well together.”
Reporter John Flowers is at email@example.com.