Six months ago, Lucy Rogers was just wrapping up her senior year at the University of Vermont.
Two months from now, she’ll be a freshman again, but not at a college or university. Rogers will be representing the people of Cambridge and Waterville in the Vermont House of Representatives.
Rogers, 23, a Democrat from Waterville, defeated a youthful opponent, 29-year old Republican Zac Mayo of Cambridge, in the race to replace Bernie Juskiewicz as the sole representative for the two-town Lamoille-3 district. Juskiewicz, a Republican, did not run for re-election.
Rogers beat Mayo by nearly 400 votes, 1,273 to 882, in a race with extremely high turnout in both towns.
Rogers fared well in her hometown, with 219 votes to Mayo’s 153; she did even better in Cambridge, receiving 1,054 votes to Mayo’s 729.
The two candidates made national news a month ago, performing an Eddie Vedder song together after a debate in Jeffersonville, and both said they were pleased they were able to run clean campaigns and avoid the divisiveness so often found in national politics.
“I just want to say how appreciative I am of Zac, and the way he ran his campaign,” Rogers said. “The feeling at the polls today, we really brought the community together with this campaign.”
Mayo promised himself he’d avoid the hostility that characterizes national politics these days, and is happy things worked out that way.
“That was the only way I was going to run a campaign,” Mayo said, and he was thrilled their race made national news.
“We got to send a message of unity, from Lamoille County to the nation,” Mayo said, and he wishes “nothing but the best” for Rogers.
“I have the highest respect for what she did,” Mayo said. “It’s not easy to run for office.”
The tight local race between two young, intelligent candidates who refused to resort to mudslinging helped drive up turnout in Cambridge and Waterville.
About 55 percent of Cambridge’s 3,203 voters turned out on Tuesday.
Turnout was even higher in Waterville, where 64 percent of the town’s 586 voters cast a ballot.
The fact that both candidates made a point of knocking on hundreds of doors to meet as many voters as possible and hear their concerns face-to-face gave the race a personable feel, said voter George Bakos.
“I’ve got to say, the race for state rep definitely got my attention,” he said.
Myron and Barbara Lafountain “vote in every election, or we try to at least,” said Barbara, but they were sure to this year: “Zac Mayo, we wanted to vote for him.”
“I normally try to get out every time,” Cambridge voter Lorraine Cofran said leaving the polls. She said she generally supports left-leaning candidates, but one in particular drew her to vote this year.
“I wanted to vote for Lucy,” Cofran said.
Rogers ended up winning by nearly 400 votes, but she had no idea how the race would play out until she saw the polling numbers from Cambridge, which all but made it official.
Rogers began mulling the idea of running for the House last January; she kept it in the back of her mind through her final semester at UVM and hit the ground running after graduation, beginning her campaign in late May and starting her door-to-door visits to almost every home in the two towns in June.
Along with the media attention from the duet, Rogers thinks her efforts to meet the voters face-to-face really helped her overcome the fact that she’s from the smaller of the two towns — and so did the handwritten, personalized postcards she sent out, thanking each person she chatted with.
Rogers said she’d like to serve on the health care or education committee next session. Now that she’s been elected, she’ll switch gears from campaigning to researching the issues and legislation that she cares about and those that affect Cambridge and Waterville the most.
Two of the biggest issues she’d like to see addressed are modifications to Act 46, the school merger law, to make it less harmful to small, rural communities, along with better accessibility to health care and support for community health practices.
But before she does any of that, Rogers wants to catch up on some sleep.
“I’m exhausted,” Rogers laughed. “I want to go hiking, see my friends, cook for my family, and clean my room.”