ST. ALBANS —Rep. Brian Savage, R-Swanton and Sen. Dustin Degree, R-Franklin, have joined state leaders in calling on state Sen. Norm McAllister, R-Franklin County, to resign, while behind the scenes area Republicans are discussing possible replacements, including former state senator and gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock.
McAllister has been charged with three counts of sexual assault and three counts of prohibited acts for allegedly coercing two female employees into unwanted sexual acts. The situation came to light when a third woman approached authorities to say McAllister had asked her for sex in exchange for rent for her son, who was McAllister’s tenant.
McAllister pleaded not guilty on Friday.
Savage, who serves as the House assistant minority leader, was clear that he was not passing judgment on the truthfulness of the allegations or McAllister’s possible guilt. “He is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. However, these are very serious charges,” Savage said.
Serious felony charges would interfere with anyone’s ability to serve as a legislator, said Savage. “For the benefit of his constituents, I think it would behoove him to resign,” he added.
“If it were me, I would do some soul-searching and probably step down,” said Savage.
Degree in an e-mail to the Messenger this morning, said, “Today I join with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ask for the resignation of Norm McAllister in light of recent serious allegations. His resignation would be in the best interest of the residents of Franklin County and Alburgh. I remain fully committed to the important work of the Senate in our final week as we tackle critical legislation such as education reform and water quality.”
Degree and McAllister campaigned together in both 2012 and 2014.
Rep. Carolyn Branagan, of Georgia, the county’s longest serving Republican legislator, declined to comment on whether McAllister should resign.
Rep. Kathleen Keenan, D-St. Albans, felt he should do so. “It’s a very sad issue and a very troubling issue,” said Keenan, adding that she feels badly for both the victim’s and McAllister’s family.
Keenan described the entire situation as giving Franklin County a black eye.
The question of whether McAllister would resign swirled through the state’s news outlets yesterday, after Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, the highest ranking Republican in the state and, under the state constitution, the official head of the Senate, said he expected to receive a letter of resignation from McAllister within 24 hours.
McAllister then told multiple news outlets he had not yet reached a decision about whether to resign.
“I’m going to meet with my attorney tomorrow (Tuesday), and do what he tells me,” McAllister told VTDigger.org.
Scott then told the press that Sen. Peg Flory, R-Rutland, a longtime friend of McAllister’s, had been serving as a liaison between him and McAllister.
Flory confirmed McAllister had told her he intended to resign and would be meeting with his lawyer, according to VTDigger.
The Messenger was unable to reach McAllister before press time.
While McAllister considers whether to resign, area Republicans have begun discussing possible replacements in informal conversations.
Gov. Peter Shumlin will appoint a replacement, should McAllister step down. However, the local county committee can recommend up to three candidates for Shumlin to choose from.
Governors have traditionally chosen someone from the same party as the legislator being replaced.
Steve Trahan, who chairs the Republican Party in Franklin County, told the Messenger by e-mail that no formal discussions of a replacement will be held until there is a formal resignation.
Savage confirmed county Republicans are discussing the possibilities and that Brock is interested in returning to the Senate.
Brock, a former state auditor, represented Franklin County in the Senate for two terms from 2009 to 2013. He challenged Governor Peter Shumlin in 2012.
Brock this morning confirmed he would be interested in returning to the seat. “This is a terrible situation for everyone,” he said.
Discussing McAllister, Brock said, “I don’t think he can continue to effectively represent Franklin County and Alburgh with these serious charges hanging over his head.”
Having held the copunty’s senate seat, Brock said, “I’m anxious to see it done well.”
House Speaker Shap Smith, Senate President Pro-Tem John Campbell, and Gov. Peter Shumlin have all called for McAllister to resign, along with Scott.
“Given the incredibly troubling allegations made against Sen. McAllister over the past few days, the right thing for him to do would be to resign from the Senate,” Shumlin said in a statement. “Sen. McAllister will go through the legal process like any other accused individual, but for the good of Vermont he should not do so as a sitting senator.”
“People in Franklin County deserve a legislator who can give them his full attention, and I don’t think he is able to do that at this point in time,” said Scott.