On the night of August 9th, Becca Balint raised her arm in the air urging her supporters gathered around her: “Let’s give it up for F&W!” Becca, a Vermont state senator, had just clinched the Democratic nomination for the state’s one U.S. House seat. And in her acceptance speech, she recalled how she moved to Vermont for the first time in 1994 to take a job at Farm & Wilderness. One of the lessons she has carried with her from that time is the idea that “Work is Love Made Visible,” she told her supporters. “That’s what this campaign has been for me. Love for community. Love for Vermont. Love for each other, despite our faults.”
Becca worked at Farm & Wilderness for almost a decade, beginning as a rock climbing instructor in 1994 and continuing on in other leadership roles. She met her wife, attorney Elizabeth Wohl, at F&W, and the couple’s children have been F&W campers.
In a state as reliably blue as Vermont, winning the Democratic nomination is typically as good as winning the general election, which Becca did with 63% of the vote! She represents a lot of firsts: the first woman and the first openly LGBTQ person to represent Vermont in Washington. (Remarkably, Vermont was the last state to elect a woman to Congress.)
Becca considers herself a principled, ideological progressive in the mold of Senator Bernie Sanders, who endorsed her in the primary. Her campaign’s tagline is “leading with courage and kindness.” She is particularly proud of having helped shepherd several pieces of legislation through the state Senate, including paid family leave, a minimum wage increase, a climate bill, and a reproductive rights bill.
The state’s Lieutenant Governor, Molly Gray, against whom Becca ran in the primary, was initially favored to win based on her prior state-wide victory: name recognition, the support of Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, and a compromising, pragmatic approach. But Becca pulled off not just a win, but a landslide, beating Gray by 24 points. “That is more than a win — it is a statement,” said Vermont journalist David Goodman.
Becca won the election to the state senate in 2014 where she became the current Senate President Pro Tempore, Even early in her political career, she credited the years she spent at Farm and Wilderness as an important step towards her later success. When she spoke with F&W’s Executive Director, Frances McLaughlin, about her time at F&W, Becca shared “So many years later, I bring [what I learned at] Farm & Wilderness to work with me every day.” “It’s a transformational place for people,” she told the website Vermont Woman in 2017, after taking on the role of VT Senate Majority Leader. At Farm & Wilderness, “I became the person I wanted to be…A person who is not afraid to speak from a place of authenticity, and that’s not easy in politics.”