Citing autocratic style, Poirier plans to challenge Smith for Speaker post

BARRE — Rep. Paul Poirier, a Barre independent, said Friday he’s planning to challenge House Speaker Shap Smith, a Morrisville Democrat, for the leadership post in January.
“I’m quite sure that is what I’m going to do,” said Poirier, who plans to make a formal announcement Wednesday. But leaving the door open to a change of heart, he said he’s about “90 percent” certain he’ll run.
A longtime Democrat who first ran as an independent in 2010, Poirier said he has been troubled by what he sees as Smith’s autocratic leadership style — a style he said has marginalized minority parties and chilled debate in Vermont’s House of Representatives.“We don’t have debates anymore,” said Poirier. “Every time a member of a minority party raises an issue it’s immediately ruled out of order by the majority. I don’t think that’s right.”
Poirier blames Smith, who was first elected to the Legislature in 2002 and has served as speaker since 2009.
“The role of the speaker is to make sure that all sides are heard and that you bring forward the best possible ideas, and that’s what my speakership would be about,” he said. “Republicans have good ideas, Progressives have good ideas, independents have good ideas, and I think to make sure that all those voices are adequately represented in committees and … in conference committees is important.”
Poirier, who was easily re-elected in a contested citywide race in Barre this week, said he has considered the post-election complexion of the House, reached out to lawmakers from all parties and concluded that he should run for speaker when the Legislature convenes in January.

- From David Delcore of the Times Argus. Read more to the story at www.timesargus.com

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