Freed, Tracy seek votes to become next House speaker

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(Host) The four Progressive members of the Vermont House say they will vote for Democrat John Tracy to be the next speaker of the House. Both Tracy and Republican Speaker Walter Freed say they have the 76 votes needed to win this election.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Members of the Progressive Caucus ended several weeks of speculation by announcing their support for Democrat John Tracy. The race for Speaker is expected to be very close because the new House will have 74 Republicans, 69 Democrats, the four Progressives and three independents.

Progressive David Zuckerman says his caucus is backing Tracy because the Burlington Democrat promised that he would be fair and balanced in determining committee assignments for all House members:

(Zuckerman) “We really felt that in our discussions with John that the assurances we received about the balance of committees, the process of putting people where their experience would be utilized, where their skills would best be utilized. We felt more confident that John Tracy in the speaker’s role that, that would be more likely.”

(Kinzel) Tracy said he’s very pleased to receive the support of the Progressives and Tracy is confident that he can hold on to all 69 members of his caucus – even the conservative members:

(Tracy) “I feel that I can I feel very confident, yes. Conversations are going very well. We’re having very good discussions, people are telling me what their interests and concerns are and we’re sticking with it. There will be a lot of conversation between now and January 8. But I believe that when I tell them that my commitment is to the state of Vermont, and to make sure the speaker’s chair is fair and sets up a tone in this building to get things done, and that’s what they believe in, that’s what they came here to do, we’ll do it.”

(Kinzel) Republican Walter Freed is just as confident that he can put together a coalition of 76 members to remain as speaker:

(Freed) “No matter what, in any election I’ve either got Democrats or Independents. There are three independents out there. Independents, Democrats – I have to put together a coalition of more than just Republicans in order to win. And the bottom line is, so doesn’t John Tracy. In order for him to win, he has to get either independents or Republicans to vote for him.”

(Kinzel) The election of the speaker will be the first order of business in the House when it convenes in January. The vote will be conducted by secret ballot.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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