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Lewis County party head’s son becomes Vermont Senate majority leader

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The son of Lewis County’s Independence Party chairman has been chosen as majority leader of the Vermont state Senate.

Philip E. Baruth was chosen last weekend to lead the 23-member Democratic caucus after being re-elected for a second two-year term to the 29-member Senate.

“The truth is that I mostly have dumb luck to thank for the spot,” the Burlington resident said by email. “But I will say one other thing — dumb luck only works if you’re prepared when the opportunity comes along, and my dad taught me all of the basics of politics by the time I was in middle school. He had a way of walking into a bar and making friends that I always envied, and so I decided to try to be like him in that way when I grew up. And I’m still trying.”

“I’m very, very pleased with what has happened,” said his father, Joseph L. Baruth Sr., Lewis County’s Independence Party chairman and a past county manager — then a Republican.

The Constableville-area resident said his son is a “very thoughtful person” and has established a reputation with his fellow senators as one who fully researches issues before speaking about them.

“He’s not a politician that blows a horn,” he said.

“We’ve got a $50 million budget shortfall right now, and now I’m partially on the hook for closing that, so I feel a little like the dog who chased the car and caught it,” Philip Baruth said. “I know New York has similar problems. But I have to say I’m much happier having some control now, even a small amount, over how we fix them. It’s a great gift the voters give you, even more so when those voters are the other senators in your caucus. Right now I’m just giving thanks for all that.”

Along with serving in the Vermont Senate, the younger Mr. Baruth — who spent his formative years in Oneida County and graduated from the Oriskany Central School District — is a full-time professor of 18th-century English at the University of Vermont and is a novelist.

“He’s a very busy young man,” Joseph Baruth said, noting his son’s new position will tack on additional duties such as oversight of fundraising for Democratic candidates.

Philip Baruth last year also was selected to be the authorized biographer for longtime U.S. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., who became president pro tempore of that body in December, he said.

“He’s a lot smarter than his father ever was,” the elder Mr. Baruth said.

While the resident senator in the family is a Democrat, his father was a longtime Republican and past Lewis County GOP chairman before helping to found the county’s Independence Party committee in 2004.

“We have some really healthy discussions on issues that come up,” Joseph Baruth said. “Philip has always been his own man. I’m proud to say he takes after his father in that regard.”

The younger Mr. Baruth spent 12 years as a regular commentator on Vermont Public Radio.

He also writes a political blog, the Vermont Daily Briefing: www.vermontdailybriefing.com.

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