Cynthia Browning, defeated in House run, floats candidacy for Speaker

Editor’s note: On Election Day, Rep. Cynthia Browning lost her bid for re-election. After vehemently opposing House Speaker Mitzi Johnson during the session this year, the gadfly Democrat from Arlington ran as an independent after the Democratic party ran two candidates against her in a two seat district. Today she announced her exploration of running for Vermont Speaker of the House. Her announcement on Facebook appears below.)

Cynthia Browning speaks to press during 2020 session

Facebook announcement by Cynthia Browning

Okay, so I am not yet sure if I will do this or not, but I may run for Speaker of the House. The Speaker is not actually required to be a House member, so that fact that I just lost my re-election would not stop me. I am very concerned that the other candidates for Speaker may not be the best people to lead the House in facing the difficult realities of our situation. And I think it is important that House members have a real choice. Below is an excerpt from a message that I have sent to my fellow representatives, who elect the House Speaker. I will let you know if I move forward with this. Cynthia B

“Greetings, Colleagues;

I write to tell you that I may run for Speaker of the House. If I did run, I would pledge to do everything that I can to ensure that legislation that moves through the House is based on reality so that it will really work. I would pledge to do everything that I can to ensure that all representatives are treated with respect as they seek to fulfill their obligation to represent their constituents, and that the rules of the House are respected.

There is nothing in the House rules that requires that the Speaker be a member of the House, so I could run for that office despite having lost my re-election bid. In these uncertain economic times, it might be useful to the House to have my services as an economist and as an experienced legislator to manage the legislative process. It might work quite well to have a Speaker dedicated to evidence based policy, committed to respectful proceedings, and without the obligations of direct constituent services. Representatives can elect the person that they believe will be the best Speaker for their purposes, without the artificial restriction that it is only possible to select from among their own members.

We have much to be proud of in Vermont, but sometimes legislation is passed that does not have a solid foundation in economic and financial realities. This may be due to inadequate policy development, or it may be that sometimes the priority is to score political points. Such legislation is unlikely to achieve the intended goals. To my mind this is why we have not made more progress in solving our long-standing problems. The House must put in place better procedures to ensure that policies put forward are evidence-based.

Too often representatives are pressured to vote in certain ways using a system of threats and rewards. A member may be threatened with committee re-assignment, a primary opponent, or other punishments. Members sometimes vote against their own judgement as to the best interests of their constituents due to such pressures. To my mind any attempt to get votes for a piece of legislation should be based on a discussion of the merits of the bill itself.

We cannot know now what conditions will be like in January. But it is fairly certain that we will face unusual challenges in financing state government, supporting Vermonters, and making needed investments for the future. We cannot afford business as usual. The discipline of reality must replace party discipline, and mutual respect must replace intimidation. If I were to run for Speaker and win that office, I would do everything I can to ensure that House bills have such a robust economic foundation and so solid a legal framework that the House will be in a strong position when negotiating with the Senate or the Administration.

At this point in time I am not asking for pledges of support, because I am still exploring this possibility. But if you think it would be useful for me to run so that House members have a real choice in January, please let me know. …..”

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