Becca Balint is a teacher, parent, state Senator, Vermonter. But as she runs as a Democrat for her state’s single seat in Congress, it’s all about the people of her great state. “I love people,” she told HollywoodLife during an EXCLUSIVE interview, in the dwindling days ahead of the November 8 mid-term elections (in Vermont, early voting began weeks ago on September 26 and runs through November 7.) “What drives me is that I love people. And I want to work hard, but I also want to be joyful in that work.” Becca, 54, is running for the one Vermont seat in the U.S. Congress against Republican Liam Madden, a first-time political candidate. If she wins, she will be the first woman to represent her state, making it a historic bid. She will also be the first openly gay person to represent Vermont in Congress. The victor will succeed outgoing Democrat Peter Welch.
As Becca shared with us, she’s continuing to work on the “fundamental right” of abortion for women. Fortunately, she said, Vermont has a head start. “I’ve done a lot of work on reproductive rights in Vermont,” she explained, noting that Vermont codified Roe V. Wade in statute before the June Supreme Court decision to overturn it. Taking it a step further, Becca says, lawmakers moved to “have a constitutional amendment in Vermont guaranteeing reproductive liberty.” Those Vermont lawmakers, including Becca, had been working on the ballot item, which will appear on the ballot as “Article 22,” for years.
Article 22 officially states, “That an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means.” According to Balint, her opponent Madden “does not support that constitutional amendment.” In an October public debate with Becca, he confirmed that he would not vote for Article 22, saying some late term abortions shouldn’t happen when a fetus can “live independently.”
“And that is absolutely an important line of disagreement between us,” she continued. In the last debates, Balint says he was asked why he is not supporting an “absolutely” qualified woman heading to Congress — given the state’s history of never having sent a woman. “And he essentially said, ‘it’s not really important to have a gender diversity in elected office,'” she revealed. “And I think that stands in stark contrast, that says a lot, when you think about his position on reproductive liberty. The conversations are different when there are women in the room talking about reproductive health.”
Obviously, that’s a red flag for Balint, whose foresight helped codify Roe before its overturn became a national women’s healthcare crisis. “We have to get better about framing this as being about fundamental rights and fairness,” she explained. “And that this is the first time in modern political history where we’ve had a Supreme Court take away a right.” For her own daughter to have fewer rights than previous generations did is unacceptable to Balint, who has two children of her own — a 12-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old son with her wife, opera singer and attorney Elizabeth Wohl.
“Most Americans, even if they don’t follow politics closely, they understand that we do not want to have the highest court in the land, in the business of taking rights away from people,” says Balint. “And that’s essentially what happened.” Her concerns fan out, and justifiably so. “I’m concerned about Justice Thomas and his ties to the insurrection,” she told HollywoodLife, speaking of his wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas allegedly sending texts to then White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows after the 2020 election, imploring him to overturn the election and keep former President Donald Trump in office. “And the way the next thing is same sex marriage. Most people understand issues of fairness and equality. And all of this is part of a larger attack on women’s rights. This is backlash.”
She notes that often these “fundamental issues of bodily autonomy” can “take a backseat to the bread-and-butter issue of inflation” and other day to day issues of survival. “We have to be better,” she says. “Those of us who care deeply about reproductive rights and bodily autonomy, we have to continue to frame it as we are protecting your rights, and the opportunity for fairness and justice in this nation.”
As she and her wife continue to raise an adolescent daughter, Becca adds that she’s hearing from Vermont constituents that they have fears involving where to send their daughters for college. “They say, ‘I’m really worried about where my kids are gonna go to college,” Balint notes. “‘I don’t want them to go to college in the state that doesn’t have reproductive rights. I don’t want them to ever be in a horrible personal dynamic where they couldn’t make decisions about their own bodies.’ Because there are fundamentalists, essentially. And they’re enablers that have that have hijacked the system for political gains. This isn’t about protecting people. It’s about political gamesmanship. And yeah, it makes me angry. Makes me really angry.”
That’s not the only issue that’s personal for the prominent politician. She’s also taken a hard line on gun safety in a state that has a strong rural hunting culture. As a mother and former middle school teacher, the growing crisis of gun violence in classrooms and elsewhere has moved her to action. While rural hunting persists, she says that now, “there are a lot of people who are gun owners who also believe that you should not be able to own an assault rifle. There are lots of people who support the Second Amendment and don’t want to see their children getting slaughtered in schools.”
To that end, she says some of the work she’s “most proud of” involves gun safety measures. “We were able to pass universal background checks, we were able to really focus on closing the Charleston loophole [a background check flaw that enabled a killer to purchase the weapon that killed nine people at a Bible study in Charleston, SC in 2015; an FBI background check had not been completed] and some other really important pieces of gun violence prevention,” she said of her time as a Senator.
When it comes full circle, Becca, who is supported by HerBoldMove, says the very “health of the democracy” is at stake, as the midterms approach. And that’s no small matter. “The overarching issue for voters in Vermont, what I hear is that their primary concern is about the health of the democracy itself,” she said. “People are concerned that we are sliding towards authoritarianism. They are very concerned about elements within the GOP that clearly do not believe in government believe in free and fair elections. And so that has been, absolutely, front and center for so many people who are thinking about issues at the federal level.”
Whether it’s election denial, housing issues, or gun safety, Becca Balint is clearly front and center on the issues that matter to Vermonters. To learn more about her campaign for U.S. Congress, visit her website here. To register to vote, visit Vote.org.Click to Subscribe to Get Our Free HollywoodLife Daily Newsletter to get the hottest celeb news.