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Incumbent Senators Ayer, Bray earn new terms

ADDISON COUNTY — Residents of Addison County, Huntington and Buel’s Gore turned out at the polls in hefty numbers on Tuesday to return their two incumbent Democratic senators to office, Claire Ayer and Christopher Bray.
District voters again made Ayer their top choice. The Addison resident easily won her eighth consecutive two-year term with 11,985 tallies, compared to 9,543 for New Haven’s Bray, who earned his third straight term.
Finishing out of the running were Republican Peter Briggs of Addison, who earned 7,329 votes, and Bristol Republican Lynn Dike, who recorded 5,962 tallies.
Ayer and Bray thanked district voters for their support as they prepared to return to a state Senate that again is tilted sharply toward the Democrats.
“Once again, I’m honored by the confidence that voters have shown in me, and I promise to do my best for them,” Ayer said.
Ayer currently serves as Senate majority whip and as chairwoman of the Senate Health & Welfare Committee. But she is now eyeing an even loftier leadership position in the state’s highest chamber: Senate president pro tem. That key position, among others, could be decided at a Democratic caucus set for Nov. 14.
But she is not putting all of her eggs in one basket. Others, including Chittenden County Sen. Tim Ashe, are vying for the coveted post.
 “If not elected president pro tem of the Senate, I hope to chair Senate Health and Welfare again,” Ayer said. “From there, I will focus on containing the cost of healthcare; on improving water quality in Lake Champlain and other surface waters — it’s an issue of public health; and on jobs and our workforce via high quality, affordable childcare for working parents.”
Ayer added she expects county residents to weigh in on anticipated bills relating to gun control and carbon taxes.
Based on Tuesday’s election returns, the state Senate is now made up of 21 Democrats, seven Republicans and two Progressives.
Bray this past spring had also talked about running for president pro tem. But he confirmed on Wednesday he will not seek that post in hopes that Senate leadership will re-appoint him chairman of the Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee. He said committee chairs cannot simultaneously hold key party leadership positions due to the time commitment.
“We have laid a good foundation (on Senate Natural Resources) and now we need to build on that,” Bray said, citing recent efforts to clean up Lake Champlain and give towns a more substantial say in the siting of solar arrays.
He gave expressed his appreciation to area voters for allowing him to return to Montpelier.
“I want to thank the people of Addison County for their vote of confidence,” he said. “I look forward to serving everyone in the county again in the Vermont Senate. I’m proud of my work in farming, food, forestry and clean energy, where I’ve worked to help us adapt and grow a stronger local economy in our own best long-term interests. We’ve added jobs, and we will add more. On energy, we’ve not only added jobs, but we’ve also helped Vermonters save money and move to clean energy. The keys to moving forward will be fairness, balance, and steadiness.”
Ayer breezed back into office by placing first in 18 of the 24 communities in the senatorial district. She garnered particularly strong support in Middlebury (2,626 votes), Huntington (782), Starksboro (518), Vergennes (714), Bristol (1,080), and Ferrisburgh (859).
Bray only took first in his hometown of New Haven (553 votes), but finished a strong second in most of the communities.
Meanwhile, Briggs topped the field in some of the traditional GOP strongholds that included his hometown of Addison (511 votes), Bridport (347), Leicester (246), Orwell (344) and Panton (190).
Briggs is a lifelong resident of Addison, where he works on his family’s farm. He currently serves as vice chairman of the Addison selectboard, and previously served on his community’sDevelopment Review Board. Briggs ran for an Addison-3 House seat in November of 2013, when he fell less than 100 votes shy of making the cut.
Dike had her best showing in her hometown of Bristol, where she received 781 votes. This was Dike’s first foray into politics during a life that has featured a lot of travel as a military spouse, followed by a lengthy career in the health care industry as a nurse at Helen Porter Healthcare & Rehabilitation Services in Middlebury.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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