Vermonters will be electing a new Governor and Lt. Governor this fall during the general election. Every time the state's top jobs are up for grabs it's an important moment that changes the arc of policy choices and priorities from one direction to another. Voters are fortunate to have good choices in both political party's primaries this year. On Aug. 9 — although many will have already cast their ballots in early voting — voters will have five serious and qualified individuals to choose from as they narrow the field down to two major party candidates. All have raised valid and important points during the gubernatorial race which started taking shape last year. Voters will also have an interesting slate to pick from — especially in the three way Democratic primary — when it comes to choosing candidates for the post of Lt. Governor.
As is usually case, the economy is the issue most on voters minds, and rightfully so. Education, energy, the environment and an assortment of other questions will also guide voters choices, as they have here with us as we've watched the field of candidates maneuver for advantage. By and large, it's been a clean and hard fought campaign, in the tradition of the state which happily still, on the whole, is mercifully free of some of the more low-ball tactics that occasionally mar the national races. And by and large, Vermont's legislature still functions from a "common sense" perspective of trying to spend taxpayer's money wisely and thoughtfully. There are exceptions, of course — Vermont Health Connect comes quickly to mind, although most of the money on that unfortunate boondoggle was national rather than purely state revenue. It's a reminder that the best of intentions can sometimes go far off course.
Having studied the field for awhile now, The Journal endorses Phil Scott on the Republican side and Sue Minter for the Democratic Party's nomination for governor. Each, we think, would bring skill, experience, integrity and commitment to service to the governor's office if elected.
We like Mr. Scott for his focus on the economy and concern for its "affordability" for the average Vermonter. Vermont's got a lot going for it, but one thing it doesn't have at present is an economy stuffed with good-paying jobs that makes living here an easily affordable project. The outflow of younger citizens who can't find jobs to match their skills and talents is a troubling indicator of that, although as a small rural state, Vermont is hardly alone in grappling with this phenomenon. We like his idea for setting a goal of boosting the state's population to 700,000 in the not-distant future. That would be a major undertaking requiring the state to make itself truly attractive to those currently living elsewhere, as well as those already here who are considering leaving. If that could occur, no small number of problems would be minimized. Additionally, we're always drawn to candidates to strike a pose of being willing to work across the aisles, although Republicans, in particular, have no choice not to in this day and age. But our take on Mr. Scott is that he has the temperament and the willingness to consult widely and work towards solutions outside the ideological hothouse that too often stymies such efforts in Washington, D.C.
His opponent in the Republican primary, Bruce Lisman, is also well qualified for the office, and has gone along way from humble origins to powerful posts on Wall Street. It's easy to dismiss Wall Street as part of the problem in this so far lackluster recovery from the crash of 2008, but Mr. Lisman brings a wealth of knowledge and some good ideas about fixing some things in need of fixing. Limiting spending increases to 2 percent and finding another 1.5 percent in savings through efficiencies sounds nice, but executing that might be a tall order. In any event, our nod here goes to Mr. Scott. If a testy, at times edgy campaign has not soured the Scott team on him, Mr. Lisman would be a good choice for a senior cabinet post where finance and economics are central.
Sue Minter also has a strong track record and government experience, along with a personality that suggests she would be a good listener as well as decision-maker. We like her out-front stance on guns and background checks, and while her two opponents in the Democratic primary, Matt Dunne and Peter Galbraith, have also etched out strong positions on this question, Ms. Minter has made it, correctly, into a higher profile piece in her campaign. While Vermont has fortunately escaped the sort of incidents of mass shootings that have sadly occurred far too often in recent years elsewhere across the nation, and we like to think we have adequate protections in place for a state proud of its responsible approach to gun ownership, there's no harm in requiring the background checks and more stringent vetting that should go with owning a gun, particularly those in the "semi-automatic" category. As Paul Heintz of the Burlington newspaper "Seven Days" showed a few months ago, its not hard to buy a semiautomatic rifle in Vermont without the hassle of going through the registration process and with the right amount of cash awaiting a seller. A national solution is the proper way to go, but in the likely absence of that for generations to come, the next best thing is the state-by-state approach.
Randy Brock is running alone on the Republican ticket for Lt. Governor, and we think he would be a great choice to take that post in November. Brock ran for the governorship in 2012, when Peter Shumlin's fortunes were at their peak — post-Irene and pre-Vermont Health Connect. He would bring an accountant's eye as well as a breadth of knowledge and experience to that office.
On the Democratic side, we're going to opt for Rep. Shap Smith, the former House Speaker who started off running for Governorship before suspending his campaign — admirably — while his wife was undergoing treatment for cancer. With those treatments showing positive signs, he re-emerged as a candidate for Lt. Governor, which won't offer the same opportunities for wielding power and shaping the agenda as the House Speakership did. Assuming he doesn't find it boring in comparison, Smith's experience and knowledge of tax policy make him our choice here, although both Rep. Kesha Ram and State Senator David Zuckerman have also shown themselves to be formidable candidates who will be state leaders in the years to come, and tuned in to the needs of the younger cohort of voters here whose voice deserves a hearing.
Either way, the state is fortunate that it has a plentiful supply of leaders to choose from this time around, all of whom have waged intelligent, issues-oriented campaigns. If candidates other than our first choices wind up prevailing, we're confident the state will be in good hands.
The most important thing, of course, that as many of you get out and vote as possible. A primary in August, when many of us are savoring the last few weeks of summer is not the ideal time, but that's what we've got. Make your voice heard and get to the polls.