MONTPELIER — At least two candidates have stepped forward and will face off to take the helm of a politically divided Vermont Republican Party ahead of its reorganization next month.
The Vermont GOP has been handed sweeping electoral defeats in the past two cycles and has ceded complete control of state government to the Democrats, who control the governor’s office and hold a supermajority in the Legislature.
John McGovern, who badly lost a bid to unseat independent Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., last fall, said Wednesday he is looking to replace current GOP Chairman Jack Lindley. Former state Rep. David Sunderland of Rutland announced his own candidacy Thursday.
It’s unclear if Lindley, who has been hospitalized at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire with an undisclosed illness since last month, will run again.
In a letter to supporters, McGovern touted his electoral experience — and even his electoral failures — as requisite experience to lead the party.
“In 2014, we will need to work on maintaining the statewide offices we currently hold and to increase the number of representatives and senators in Montpelier,” he wrote. “All that starts by finding and supporting quality candidates.”
McGovern added: “We need to have a chair who understands what it takes to roll up your sleeves and do the hard work, to get out in the trenches and become a candidate for the first time. We need a chair who knows both victory and defeat and what it takes to overcome initial defeats and to come back to run for a second and third time.”
Sunderland, who served five years in the House after he was appointed by former Gov. James Douglas, said the Vermont GOP must be strengthened to help shape policy in the areas of jobs, health care, education and affordability.
“On these issues Vermonters deserve a Republican Party that listens, can speak on their behalf and will work to elect candidates who vigorously, yet respectfully, offer a Vermont Way to move our state forward,” Sunderland wrote in his own letter announcing his candidacy.
“That is my vision for the Vermont Republican Party and it is why I respectfully ask for your vote on November 9th,” he wrote.
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