Throw the bums out! Every two years we get the opportunity to do just that. Every two years the governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, auditor, all state representatives and all the senators answer to the will of the people. By inking in a series of ovals on a sheet of paper, Vermonters can completely change the makeup of the institutions that govern us and write our laws. That’s an incredible power people in many countries are denied and would die for.
Though the election is in November, those of you that have mused about placing your hands on the reins of power must soon step up. Assuming you’re running as a Democrat or Republican, you cannot get your name on the November ballot without first winning the primary election in August. To get your name on that ballot, you must turn in the proper petition by May 31. Ask the town clerk about it. That petition requires signatures. A state representative, like myself, must chase down and strong-arm 50 registered voters into signing my petition. They must all be from my Colchester district (CH-9-1, the village side).
Any number of candidates can run in August’s primary. That election winnows the state representative candidates down to two from each political party. At most, the names of two Democrats and two Republicans will move from the August primary election to the November general election. There might also be candidates from other parties. In November, voters choose any two.
Getting your name on the primary ballot costs nothing. The cost of running is in the campaign. A lowkey campaign with yard signs, a thousand flyers to hand out and a few newspaper ads could easily cost $2,000. If you’re elected as a representative, your pay is about $700 for each week that the legislature is in session. You get reimbursed for the commute and there is a per diem meal allowance of $74 a day. There’s also $125 for the cost of lodging if you spend the night. A prudent person might make $1,000 for each of the roughly 20 weeks of the session, but it depends a lot on how you choose to live while in Montpelier.
A hot button issue or a commitment to a good cause may motivate you to run and get elected, but then there’s the actual job. Media grabbing floor votes happen only a few times a session. For a good idea of the daily work of a representative see my weekly blog post. There’s a link to it near the top of my website, CT4VT.com.
Keep in mind that “throw the bums out” has a new meaning when you’re the bum that might be thrown out.