Tanya Vyhovsky

Tanya Vyhovsky

ESSEX — When one of Vermont’s congressional seats becomes available next year, an Essex woman could try to make a difference at the federal level.

In an email to the press on Monday, Rep. Tanya Vyhovsky, a progressive, shared she would be exploring a “people-powered Democratic-socialist” campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Elected to represent Chittenden 8-1, a district in the Town of Essex, in the Vermont House of Representatives in 2020, Vyhovsky currently serves on the Government Operations Committee.

Though she announced her interest in the Senate just hours after Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. stated he would not seek re-election, Vyhovsky told the Reporter the decision was weeks in the making.

“There’s been murmurings and rumblings, but I just value transparency and honesty,” she said in an interview. “Rather than let people speculate, I just wanted to say, ‘Yes, this is something I'm thinking about.’”

Vyhovsky graduated from Essex High School in 2003. After earning a bachelor of science from Northeastern University and a master of social work from the University of Vermont, she opened a small counseling practice in Essex, primarily serving youth and young adults.

She spoke with the Reporter late Monday night about why she might run, her next steps and what she’s got her eye on when the Vermont Legislature restarts in January.

Q: Why are you specifically interested in running for the U.S. Senate?

A: For me, it's about the work being done on the federal level. As a leftist who is looking at making some bold changes, the idea of being in those spaces while Sen. Bernie Sanders is still there is really important.

But honestly it wasn't something I came into thinking about last year or even earlier this year. It’s really a conversation that sort of organically developed — people approaching me and asking me to think about it.

For the first time, in as long as I've been eligible to run for anything, there's a possibility of change and movement and openings at the federal level. That sort of forces the thought of, you know, is this a possibility? Certainly, those seats have been pretty locked up and held for a pretty long time.

Q: Now that you’ve made this announcement, what’s next?

A: The first thing is really just meeting with Vermonters and my mentors and my team to really decide, you know, is this even the right avenue? It’s still only something I’m considering. There's a lot of information, and I have to decide if this is even the right time.

I still have to do my other work. I am elected to represent Essex, and I intend to continue to do that. I also work as a social worker, and with the state of the mental health system, there's no way at this point that I feel like I can passively step away and say, ‘go figure it out.’ There are no other resources.

So just given the state of things in Vermont and in my own life, I’ll be asking, ‘Is now the moment?’ It'll be lots of exploring and connecting with my family, my constituents, the larger Vermont constituency, and of course, my mentors to make those calculations.

Q: Explain what a “people-powered, Democratic-socialist” campaign means to you.

A: A people-powered campaign means I don't take any corporate money. I really rely on being fueled by the power of the people and really being a movement candidate.

I intend to continue being connected every day, with everyday people just like me — really bringing them into that movement, bringing their voices in.

A Democratic-socialist agenda is really about democratizing our goods and resources and ensuring that everyone has their basic needs met and has access to the things our democracy promises. Right now, those aren’t always delivered.

Q: As the next Vermont legislative session approaches, what are you looking forward to?

A: I'm on the Government Operations Committee, so I know we have some big stuff coming our way with redistricting. We also have the continuation of the conversation on state employees’ and teachers’ pensions. I'm really looking forward to continuing to engage with the state workers and the teachers’ unions and their members to make sure that we have a fair and just path forward on any pension changes.

I think we also need to continue to figure out a pathway forward to universal health care. I don't know exactly what the answer is, and I've got some bills in the works that I'm hoping to gain some energy around. The pandemic really showed us that health care linked to employment has some really big problems.

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