On Wednesday, July 6th, the BBA co-hosted a candidate forum on the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s race. During this forum, we heard from Sarah George (I) and her opponent Ted Kenney, both Democrats vying for the party’s nomination in the August, 9th Primary. There are no Republicans in this race. MyNBC5’s Stewart Ledbetter moderated the forum.
Watch the full forum
Thank you to the South Burlington Business Association, the Vermont Retail and Grocers Association, and the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce for their partnership on this event. Together we have co-authored the below in-depth analysis of the forum.
Read the in-depth analysis here: Groups React to Jointly Hosted Chittenden County State’s Attorney Forum
Here are our key takeaways:
- A lack of concrete solutions to downtown safety
- George defended her policies and did not feel there was a connection between those policies and issues that our members see daily. She blamed the court backlog in response to questions about repeat offenders.She offered few ideas or actions to address issues with the state judicial system.
- Kenney stated that he believes the problem with increased crime is multifaceted. He states he’s committed to sharpening the existing policies, but did not provide specifics.
- Agreement on Retail Theft
- Both candidates expressed interest in restitution, or repayment, for victims of retail theft, however, neither put forth any substantive structure for that process.
- Differences on Conditions of Release
- Kenney disagreed with George’s approach. He saw a problem with a judge imposing conditions that aren’t asked for by a prosecutor, implying the state’s attorney could and should try asking for stricter conditions.
- George noted that conditions of release are complicated and handled case-by-case. She stated that judges often set conditions of release not requested by prosecutors. She also stated that for some their mental health or substance use needs severely influence their decision-making.
- Commitment to Advancing Criminal Justice Reform
- George believes that criminal justice reform is best served by changing how we prosecute cases. For example, she defended her policy on non-public safety traffic stops. George’s primary approach to prosecution is to keep offenders out of jail and instead tries to help the accused deal with issues of mental health and substance use disorder.
- Kenney pointed to increased and perpetual implicit bias training for law enforcement and other officials within the justice system as a critical step in addressing racial disparities. Kenney does not see public safety and compassion as mutually exclusive in the judicial system.
Remember to VOTE: Primary Day is Tuesday, August 9th.
In the News
- MYNBC5: Chittenden County State’s Attorney primary candidates faceoff in virtual forum
- Williston Observer: Weighing compassion and consequences
- WAMC: Candidates for Chittenden County State’s Attorney debate
- VT Digger: Sarah George accuses Ted Kenney of making her ‘scapegoat’ for uptick in crime
- Seven Days: Police, Firefighter Unions Back Kenney for Chittenden State’s Attorney
About the Candidates
Sarah is the Chittenden County State’s Attorney in Burlington, Vermont. She has been a prosecutor in Chittenden County since January 2011 and sworn in as the elected State’s Attorney on January 20th, 2017. Chittenden County houses over a quarter of Vermont’s total population, is the most diverse county in the State, and stands out for their progressive approach to public health and public safety.
Sarah is the second woman in Vermont history to serve in this role and since being Chittenden County State’s Attorney has focused her efforts on overhauling the criminal legal system. She uses her incredible prosecutorial discretion to implement evidence based practices and policies that work to keep her community safe. Sarah is dedicated to providing opportunity, intervention and holistic support to survivors, families and offenders; holding individuals accountable and implementing smart-on-crime policies that promote safe, healthy, and strong communities.
Ted Kenney was born in Burlington and raised in Richmond. He attended local schools and graduated from St. Michael’s College. He then moved to Washington, D.C. where he worked full-time and went to night school at The American University to earn his law degree. Moving back to his hometown two weeks after graduating, Ted opened his own solo law practice. His practice grew into a successful small town law practice, concentrating on criminal defense and civil litigation.
Ted has helped lead a number of charities and professional organizations. He has been vice-chair of the Chittenden County Bar Association, the president of the Vermont Dismas House (helping former inmates re-adjust to society), and the president of the Vermont Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He is currently serving on the board of the Joint Urban Ministry Project, a charity that provides services to the poor and homeless. Ted has handled hundreds of cases and represented hundreds of people, appearing in criminal, civil and family cases in state and federal court. He has argued multiple appeals before the Vermont Supreme Court and the federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City. In 2020, Ted accepted a job as the Human Services Division Chief in the Attorney General’s Office, supervising 30 attorneys and support staff. He left the position in 2022 and is now running for Chittenden County State’s Attorney.