A lengthy debate between two political rivals running for the same seat in the Vermont House of Representatives ended on a different note earlier this month.
After Democrat Lucy Rogers, 23, and Republican Zachary Mayo, 29, — both vying to represent the towns of Cambridge and Waterville — put down the microphone after questions about issues like carbon tax and paid family leave, they picked up a cello and a guitar.
And together, they sang.
“We just put together what we thought would sound nice,” Mayo told Boston.com, recalling the rendition of “Society,” a song by Jerry Hannan, they played inside the Varnum Memorial Library in Jeffersonville on Oct. 10.
The moment, captured in a video posted on Facebook, brought national attention to the Lamoille-3 District — which sits about 30 miles northeast of Burlington — and triggered a flood of responses for both candidates from across the country.
The recognition has left Mayo “utterly shocked,” he said.
Rogers proposed the idea for a musical performance as a light way to end the debate and emailed Mayo two days before the forum, he said. The candidates met for a two-hour rehearsal the next day where they ran through lists of songs before settling on one Mayo suggested.
“It didn’t feel like a huge thing to me, I just knew that we were both musicians and wanted to do something to show the spirit of the community that we come from,” Rogers said in an interview.
“Society, have mercy on me,” the lyrics read. “I hope you’re not angry if I disagree.”
Mayo thought the duet was a great idea, particularly because of the current political climate. More Americans are divided by political party lines than ever before, according to a Pew Research Center study released nearly a year after the 2016 presidential election.
Singing a song to close out the debate just brought it all in “a completely different direction,” Mayo said. The quick duet was just an example of another way candidates and citizens can approach political discourse.
“We’re very tribal in how we think, and there’s a certain feel in being able to come together,” he said. “There is a deeper bond that we have over party affiliation. It is not just Democrats or just Republicans. We are Americans first.”
Both candidates said they think there is a desire and need across the country for more moderate political candidates. Mayo added he’d like to see more politicians with a sense of civility.
“Passionate debate is fine, but you must maintain that respect,” he said.
The performance is perhaps indicative of a rather respectful campaign season for the Vermont district amid a charged build toward the national Nov. 6 midterm elections.
Rogers said her experience campaigning, which has brought her to knocking on all 2,000 doors across the district, has underscored the importance of local politics to her.
She’s found that it’s pretty easy to be respectful to the people she’s met who have differing opinions when they know each other as neighbors.
Those conversations were often in stark contrast to the talk on national politics she heard on the radio while she drove and canvassed throughout the two towns, she said.
“(The duet) really reflects more on the community that we come from than it does on the two of us,” Rogers said.
The two candidates have, since the beginning of their campaigns, made clear to one another that they have only respect for one another, Mayo said.
“We’re a small, little area in Vermont, very rural,” he said. “A lot of us know each other … to run a negative campaign would just tear us apart.”
After the final notes rang out on their performance, the two candidates were met with a hearty, extended applause from debate attendees.
Then, they shared a smile and shook hands.
Watch the performance, which starts around 45:15, below: