State Senate’s sole scientist and UVM affiliated professor runs for reelection


Courtesy of Vermont State House

Virginia ‘Ginny’ Lyons is up for reelection in the democratic primary Tuesday, Aug. 11. She has served as a democrat representing Chittenden County since 2000.

With the democratic primary just one day away, the sole scientist and one of just 10 women currently in the state Senate is vying for re-election.

Virginia ‘Ginny’ Lyons, a UVM-affiliated professor and state senator for Chittenden County running for reelection in the Aug. 11 primary, often starts her day with a cup of coffee and a log on to her computer. 

She says that her campaign has shifted since the pandemic began to include remote hearing panels, a postcard writing campaign, and building a website. 

“I can’t go out and meet new people in interviews the way I usually do,” Lyons says, “I miss being out in the various towns and communities and talking with people I usually see.” 

Lyons has been a Senator since 2000. Her campaign focuses on navigating the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, reinforcing a strong commitment to public health and addressing the long-term concerns of climate change, an area of research that comes in part due to her scientific training. 

“In the area of climate change and global climate warming, we absolutely need to have a critical understanding of what’s going on and to be able to develop policies related to climate change,” Lyons said. “It is an epidemic equally concerning as the COVID pandemic.”

As a member of the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare, Lyons’ commitment to improving healthcare in Vermont has strengthened as a result of the pandemic. 

“The business of healthcare represents over 20% of our state budget and the healthcare business has been absolutely devastated by the pandemic,” she said. “We want to make sure that the people who live in the Old North End or in Harris [Hall]…have access to healthcare services and that it’s not cost-prohibitive.”

Lyons is currently the only trained scientist in the Vermont State Legislature and a professor of Environmental and Biological Sciences for 30 years. She says that previous training helps her to make data-driven, informed decisions. 

“In the legislative environment, you really need to have your facts straight,” Lyons said. “It’s not about what you absolutely know and believe alone. It’s how you bring people together to build consensus.” 

Lyons has developed a number of bills related to advancing women’s rights in Vermont in her tenure. Examples include the 2001 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act which bans multiple forms of discrimination in the work-place and the Freedom of Choice Act which guarantees current abortion rights. 

“When you’re a student, and you’re aspirational as a woman…you want to know that there are provisions in law that protect your individual rights to do that,” Lyons said. “ I feel very strongly about that.”