BENNINGTON >> Over 40 people turned out Wednesday night to meet the three Democratic candidates running for lieutenant governor, all of whom touched on important issues to Vermonters such as economic development, affordable housing and healthcare.
The Bennington County Democratic Committee hosted the event at Madison's Brewery & Restaurant. State Rep. Kesha Ram, state Sen. David Zuckerman, and Speaker of the House Shap Smith were in attendance.
Ram vowed to be a connector-in-chief across the state, advocate for the people citing the recent stalker bill that was passed, and be a leader for attracting folks to southern Vermont.
Ram represents Chittenden district 6-4 and led the role of a public engagement specialist for the City of Burlington until resigning this year to run for lieutenant governor. Aside from legislative work, the candidate advocates for assisting the Women Helping Battered Women program, is a member of the Policy Team for the city's Climate Action Plan and once served as a preschool teacher for Burlington Children's Space, according to The Encyclopedia of American Politics.
"I think we have more work to do to bring costs down," she said. "I do think we have a lot of avoidable healthcare costs."
The candidate talked about how affordable housing can help bring down healthcare costs because it would benefit the entire family's health. Also, by investing in primary care, costs down the road can be avoided.
Zuckerman has represented Chittenden since 1997 and has worked in the farming industry since 1994. He mainly focuses on issues surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMO), marijuana legalization and climate change.
He first got into politics working on U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign and was influenced by the idea of working for what he believed in. He noticed the community aspect of working together toward one goal and wants to continue that process long-term.
"A lot of people do the work, but one person takes the credit for it," he said. "I want to expand on the engagement process with citizens for the long-term."
Zuckerman emphasized the importance of legalizing marijuana and how taxation on the drug could produce revenue for a capital trust fund to support affordable housing and even broadband high speed internet for the state.
Smith recently ran for governor but ended his campaign when his wife was diagnosed with cancer. He is a practicing attorney and represents Lamoille-Washington-1, working toward fair wages, equal pay and supporting a strong agricultural economy and small and downtown businesses, according to his campaign site.
He opened with a story about his son's eighth-grade graduation at the school he grew up in and how a classmate came out about being gay. He reflected on the great progress the state has made on equal marriage but noted that due to the recent Orlando shooting, there's still work to be done.
"We need to continue to lean forward," he said. "Our diversity is our strength."
Southern towns often feel left out, he acknowledged, adding that if Chittenden was succeeding, then the state's actually failing without the lower areas following.
Randy Brock, former state senator, state auditor and 2012 gubernatorial candidate will run as a Republican. Boots Wardinski is running as a Progressive, Garrett Graff is a journalist and running as a Democrat, Brandon Riker, political organizer and entrepreneur is running as a Democrat and physician Louis Meyers is independent.
The state's primary election is on Aug. 9 and the general election to follow on Nov. 8.
—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.