‘Brave Enough to Lose’ – Waterbury Roundabout

“Susan B. Anthony dedicated her entire life to the work of women’s voting rights. all her life. Then she died on the eve of her inevitability. The job is to move forward, to fight so that we have safer and stronger communities. We all have to be brave enough to lose. All of us.”

Those were the words I spoke on election night. That’s what it had to be, to run this race. To try to win. I had to be brave enough to lose.

I had to believe in the possible, even against all odds. No one else had that courage. Losing is hard, walking into the fire with your eyes wide open is hard, it’s very hard. Experiencing the barriers that come from a marginalized background and experiencing them in public is painful and sometimes heartbreaking. Believing that change is possible is what I have had to do all my life. It is what people who have experienced the hardest things have to do. Because without hope, there is nothing. But what I understand more than any of this is the pain that Vermonters feel and how important it was to be someone with the knowledge, the experience, the guts, and the lived experience to make it clear what we’re up against, what’s coming out wrong and what work we all have to do to make it better.

As public figures and elected leaders, we can get lost in the results and in our own careers. But the results that matter most are whether we get housing for all Vermonters; if we start to cross the finish line with strong and bold action on climate change; whether we have adequate child care; and if we can stop burying our children by overdose and suicide.

At some point in my campaign, I told my team: “Let’s fight like hell to win…but…let’s also fight like hell to win on the issues. Because losing in trouble is not an option for me.”

We win 100% on the issues and not only win, we knock it out of the park.

I’m not trying to sugarcoat the experience, it was difficult. It was like walking through the mud. Sometimes he hit me. But it was important. Someone had to speak up for the needs of Vermonters every day: we couldn’t let significant mismanagement by the current administration go unnoticed, and we couldn’t let Vermonters down by refusing to fight Goliath.

None of us should agree to turn our backs on those who need us most just because it’s hard. Vermonters don’t have that option and I believe with every ounce of my being that as public figures and elected leaders we should stand right by our community members and neighbors. I wasn’t about to leave Vermonters most vulnerable on the battlefield without someone to stand up for them, so I did it anyway. Although it would be difficult. Even though the whole system is designed to work against me. Although it seems impossible. Although at times it broke my heart.

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If we hadn’t been beating that drum when Vermont Emergency Rental Assistance and Emergency Rental Assistance were cut off without notice, if I had been afraid to speak truth to power when this administration was ready to do harm, the administration We wouldn’t have “found $20 million.”

The last night before the election, I met with people who were using emergency housing. Through tears, people told me about their immense fear of being thrown back into the streets. In my campaign, I offered many solutions to this. We can expand the groups throughout the state. We can use the platform housing. We can look at the dormitory dwelling. We must begin to understand that the cost of doing nothing, both financially and to our communities, is exponentially higher than investing in a solution.

I will work with legislators to introduce and work toward a short- and long-term strategic housing plan, one that addresses the needs of everyone from the homeless to middle-income families. I’m not done yet and I need all of you to be with me to get it done.

We brought sexual harassment and assault issues to the fore in the National Guard. We made sure he couldn’t be ignored and used this platform to allow a former member to share his story.

In this campaign, we conveyed that the money for child care that the legislature appropriated was not going out the door and now it is. We use a megaphone on the needs of our centers and our small businesses and will continue to push this issue forward.

We boldly and explicitly share about the overdose crisis and the need for us to move forward. We will have overdose prevention sites this year because we weren’t scared and I’m not done yet. This year, I’m working with a senator to introduce a comprehensive bill on the overdose crisis, and with all his help, we’ll get it passed. I want to speak to the 845 families who have lost loved ones in the last six years and promise that their loved ones did not die in vain: we will fix this for other families no matter how long it takes. Included in that 845 is my nephew, Kaya Siegel. To my family, thank you for being open enough to bear the tale of our pain. Your courage is helping others.

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We corrected the record on weather and the clean heat standard and drove home the need to build renewable energy in the state. We are going to have some serious climate action this year.

We are talking in real numbers about the economic cost of inaction on all these issues. We are wasting so many taxpayer dollars by not meeting our challenges head on and we will continue to speak in dollars and cents because Vermonters deserve to know the true cost of doing nothing.

On Election Day, Vermonters elected the largest qualified majority in our history. Vermonters said without hesitation that they want progress on the issues. We pound the pavement day after day about the reality of this administration and that we can’t sustain two more years of their vetoes and THAT worked.

I know the people that Vermonters chose; I was stumped by them throughout the campaign. I introduced myself for them. I did it because I believe in them. They are champions of climate, child care, criminal justice reform, and housing. They are people who will fight for change. Vermonters said loud and clear that they are ready for progress. While our state is historically uncomfortable with ousting an incumbent and the reality of money in politics hung over my race, Vermonters spoke up by securing victory on the issues that matter most. We must deliver on these issues now that we have the power to do so.

What we have shown is that Vermonters are worth fighting for and that there are plenty of wins, even in an unlikely race. My team and I ran an incredible campaign, truly relentless (although we ARE tired), relentless, disciplined and tenacious and did absolutely everything we could. We leave EVERYTHING on the field.

It wasn’t the result we wanted, but what we achieved along the way and will achieve as a result of this race is much better than most imagined and we worked through the kinks. Thanks to all of you, we will get things across the finish line in this legislative session and that is no small victory. In fact, it’s huge. Whether you voted for me or Phil Scott, I urge you to hold this administration accountable and stand up when the people who need us most are left behind. None of us should turn our backs.

You see, together WE ARE stronger.

The work is hard. It’s long and lonely. But is it worth it.

I hope that what I leave with you all is that today we must rise up, be strong and fight one more day. We have achieved a lot together and together and we will achieve much more.

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I’ve said over and over throughout the race that this is a tough fight, but it’s not even close to the toughest I’ve ever had to fight in my life and I’m still standing. Trust me when I tell you that I am still on my feet and ready to move on.

To those who fear losing or question what we can achieve when it’s a true uphill battle. For those of you who don’t see the point in trying. I hope you have seen through this run, that we have to try. If you have the privilege of being comfortable, it will always be easier to look the other way. We are at a moment in our world where we have to do more and be better. Where we must rise together to progress. We have to be prepared for what is to come and know that we will stand together in our commitment to a brighter and stronger Vermont.

To all of you who have to get up every day and fight anyway, even if it’s hard, I see you and I will fight alongside you. I promise. To every Vermonter who said I was his only hope, thank you. While I’m humbled by his support, that’s simply not the truth. We are all each other’s only hope. Let’s keep moving.

We chose the most historic list in Vermont history: the most women, the most LGBTQIA people, the most people of color, and more. We did that together.

For me and my team, for those who were ready for us to move on, this is a difficult time, but it is not the end. Just look what we did together. It really is quite something.

Thank you Vermonters for your courage and your bravery. I won’t leave you behind. I’m not even close to finishing yet. In fact, I’m just getting started.

Brenda Siegel was Vermont’s 2022 Democratic nominee for Governor. She began her political work as an intern for Bernie Sanders in Washington, DC. A drug and housing policy advocate, she is on the Vermont Public Transit Advisory Commission and the Department for Children and Families General Assistance Task Force. She is chair of the Newfane Democratic Caucus, a member of the Legislative Equity Caucus, and serves on the board of directors of the Community of Vermont Elders & Neighborhood Schoolhouse. She is in the National Overdose Crisis Cohort with Popular Action. A small business owner, she teaches courses in leadership, civic engagement, and social justice.