Bennington Rep. Kiah Morris is speaking up about her decision not to seek re-election — and she said being the target of hate both online and in the real world played a factor in her decision to withdraw her candidacy.
Morris announced in a Facebook post on Friday that she was no longer seeking re-election. She has served as a Democrat in the Vermont House for nearly four years.
"It is a personal and individual decision for myself, and it’s one that I get to claim and own and utilize," Morris told Vermont Edition Thursday. "You volunteer to serve, and it is not conscripted to you. It is not an obligation for anyone to ever place themselves in harm’s way simply for what we believe should be this larger movement."
Morris is one of the few lawmakers of color in the Legislature. On Vermont Edition Thursday, Morris said that she’s experienced racist attacks and death threats from white supremacists and other hate groups for more than a year.
“We had propaganda being left underneath the door of the Democratic Party. I had a home invasion, vandalism, even the woods near my house where we’d go and walk frequently as a family had swastikas painted all over the trees there," Morris said. "So many different things that have been happening that are not terribly unique to Bennington, unfortunately. And that’s what this moment is showing, in a really glaring way, that this is right here. It’s here in our hands.”
Earlier this week, the Vermont's Attorney General's Office said that they were investigating online threats that had been made against Morris.
"It’s been so pervasive in our lives that I can at least tell you my son saw one of the threats. And he’s 7 years old and was fully aware and understanding of what it said and what it meant," Morris said. "It’s something that’s unacceptable to have happen for anyone, let alone someone who chooses to step up and serve. It’s not acceptable for any Vermonter."
Morris said she’s spoken with her Montpelier colleagues from the governor down about the threats, as well as her decision not to seek re-election.
"This movement is really reflective of the work that everyone needs to do ... It’s really important for people to know how many folks have stepped forward," Morris said, "how many of my legislative colleagues have said: 'We failed you. You’ve been speaking up about these issues, you've been speaking up about the need for us to take this seriously, and we just haven’t been there for you in the way that we needed.'"