Chase beats Ryan in new Vermont House district

Heather Chase, right, and her campaign treasurer, Phil Perlah, toast a hoped-for victory as they await the results of the State House race against Republican Eva Ryan at the Fullerton Inn. Photo by Shawn Cunningham.

By Cynthia Prairie
©2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Democrat Heather Chase has won the seat in the Vermont House of Representatives for the newly carved out Windsor-Windham District of Athens, Chester, Grafton and Windham. Chase handily beat Ryan 1,308 to 803, winning in comfortable margins in each town.

Those town by town breakdowns were: 819 to 546 in Chester; 229 to 105 in Grafton, 101 to 71 in Athens, and 159 to 81 in Windham.

Of her victory, Chase said late Tuesday night, “I’m thrilled and I look forward to representing all the people of Chester, Grafton, Athens and Windham. I’m grateful for the opportunity to bring the voice of these communities to Montpelier to advocate for our citizens, whether you supported me or not. I also want to thank all those who worked on my campaign on my behalf.”

Chase’s win continues the two-decade Democratic Party dominance of the district. The last Republican to represent the area was Erron Carey, who won her second two-year term in 2002 but was defeated by Democrat Kathy Pellett in 2004. Pellett did not seek re-election and Democrat Leigh Dakin of Chester won three terms until 2017. Then Tom Bock ran as a Democrat and has served in that seat since but decided not to seek re-election since he has moved to Chittenden County.

The Chase-Ryan race also seems to be the area’s first competitive House race since Pellett ran against Carey in 2004.


The race proved itself to be an interesting one. Chase and Ryan are both Chester residents. Both are in the health care field and neither faced opposition during the primary. They met for two forums during the General Election campaign, one in Windham and the second in Grafton, and were able to turn their small campaign coffers into competitive showings at the polls.

During the campaign, Chase, a nurse and small business owner who serves on the Chester Select Board, has used her government experience to impress audiences with her grasp of the communities she was seeking to serve and knowledge of the issues of the day. She has said her “top of mind” concerns are housing, economic development and climate change.

Ryan, a mental health counselor, comes across with a sincerity to help others and to offer choices to voters even though her understanding of some issues was lacking. She has stated that family was her central issue, encompassed by education, child-care, drugs and immigration. And while she agreed that Joe Biden is indeed the president of the United States, she would not call him “legitimately elected,” even after being pressed on the issue. The refusal is a common tactic of election deniers.

The two disagreed on reproductive rights and bodily autonomy encompassed in Proposition 5/Article 22, an amendment to the Vermont Constitution that states:  The right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty protected by this Constitution and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means.

“As a legislator” Chase has said, a woman’s decision to have or not have an abortion “is not my business.” Chase added, “ I trust women to make their own decision.” Opponents of the proposition have said that their argument against Article 22 was that it took abortion out of the hands of the elected legislature and instead gave it to unelected doctors and judges.

While Ryan contended she believed in a woman’s right to choose, she had urged people to vote against Prop 5. Ryan has also been a strong proponent of charter schools and school choice, where tax dollars that pay for schools would follow the students to the school of the parents’ choice. Chase on the other hand says she is a strong believer in public education and would like to see it strengthened.


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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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