A successful write-in campaign earlier this month finds former Essex Jct. Rep. Paul Dame again vying for a seat in the Vt. Legislature, this time in the incumbent-laden Chittenden County Senate race.
Fifty-nine voters wrote in Dame during the Aug. 14 primary, eclipsing the required 40 votes to place his name on the ballot come November. He joins Republicans Alex R. Farrell and Dana Maxfield in their bid to knock off some of the six Democratic incumbents seeking re-election.
“I was pretty excited,” Dame said of the news he’d made the cut. “But I couldn’t have done it without the support of all the people.”
Dame said he didn’t plan on running this year, but the roots of his budding crusade trace back to the candidate himself. In July, he urged members of the Essex Town Republican Committee to consider writing in candidates for vacant seats in the upcoming primary – doing so, the committee chairman said, may help convince those people make an official run down the road.
In response, Maxfield told Dame his pitch was convincing. So convincing, in fact, Maxfield planned to write him in for the Vermont Senate.
After some introspection, Dame began a low-key campaign in which he “casually” informed people he encountered about his bid and sent out his first official campaign letter the day before the primary.
Now, he says, is when the real work begins.
Dame’s two-year stint in the House gives him decent name recognition in town, but the same isn’t true county-wide. He plans to join forces with his Republican challengers and piggyback off their varied support in the greater-Burlington area, where he thinks the trio can separate itself from the incumbents, half of whom call the Queen City home. (Two others live in Williston, the third in South Burlington).
“We have a little bit of a different perspective,” Dame said of the Republicans, noting Maxfield lives in Milton and Farrell hailed from Shelburne before moving to Burlington. “We can appeal to folks who feel their vote gets swallowed up by Burlington.”
In the same breath, Dame points to his eight years of living in Burlington to show that he, too, understands what it’s like to “be downtown and not use your car for a week.” And he emphasizes that at 36, he’s the “old man” in the Republican field – Maxfield and Farrell are 33 and 25, respectively – suggesting that will help them leverage support in a county ripe with young voters.
Pointing to the lopsided representation of the last biennium, Dame is also banking on voters who favor balance.
“We’re not a 100 percent Democrat in Chittenden County,” he said, referring to the lack of a Republican senator in the county.
Dame’s newfound candidacy aligns with a long-term goal of the Vermont Republican Party: finding candidates to fill out the ballot. But the power of incumbency presents a major challenge for Dame and his running mates.
Still, the Essex hopeful notes he’s no stranger to taking on the odds: In his first and only successful bid for the Vt. House in 2014, the Republican challenger unseated an incumbent Democrat in Chittenden 8-2.
The success lasted only two years. Dame lost his seat in 2016 to Democrat newcomers Lori Houghton and Dylan Giambatista. Dame said he spent his time away focused on his family and business, recently hiring his first employee.
He admitted the campaign cycle returned faster than he excepted after his first stint in the House and blamed his loss on being outworked. He said that won’t be the case this year.
“They’re going to continue to work hard,” Dame said of the incumbents, “but it’s just motivation for me.”