Well, the most recent breaking news in the Vermont gubernatorial race is not an entry, but an exit. House Speaker Shap Smith made the decision to bow out of the race, due to his wife's fight against breast cancer. There is no doubt that this decision was incredibly difficult for the Speaker, but also very courageous. He chose to focus on his wife and family over continuing his quest in pursuit of the governorship. Speaker Smith's dedication to his family speaks to his humanity and big-heart, and his family should be in our prayers through this difficult time.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that this decision will have a substantial impact on the Democratic primary for Governor. The field of Democratic candidates has been narrowed from three to two: Sue Minter and Matt Dunne.
In many ways, Smith's exit will be a strategic-positive for Minter. Both Smith and Minter were vying for support from the Democratic Party establishment. Both have close ties to Montpelier, and both have served in the House of Representatives where they have been seeking the support of their Democratic House colleagues. Smith's exit essentially makes Minter the Democratic establishment's favorite. She no longer has to compete as strongly for these endorsements and resources, since Smith is out of the picture. Meanwhile, Dunne has avoided the Democratic establishment altogether. He's portrayed himself as an insurgent/outsider candidate, distancing himself from Montpelier and the Legislature.
But, there is another factor to consider. Perhaps Smith's exit opens up an opportunity for another entry. There has been speculation that former State Senator Peter Galbraith will enter the Democratic contest for Governor. Galbraith himself has suggested that his entrance is perhaps more likely than not. This would cause a number of headaches inside the Vermont Democratic Party. Galbraith's tenure in the Senate was marked by his willingness to lambast party leaders on both sides of the aisle over hot-button issues. He was unafraid of challenging the Democratic establishment during his tenure, and is considered by many to be a controversial candidate. His potential entry, however, ought to concern Dunne more than Minter. Both Dunne and Galbraith have taken a more progressive stance on the issues, with Dunne coming out in strong support of Bernie Sanders's presidential bid and Galbraith taking progressive positions on issues like health care and tax policy. Both come from the south-eastern section of the state. Both are shaping up to run an outsider-focused campaign. Both served in the State Senate for two terms. Both have been out of Montpelier in recent years. A Galbraith entry would surely cause headaches for many Democratic officials who worry about a candidate who might take them to task, but I'd really be sweating if I were Matt Dunne.
Shap Smith's exit does have an impact. If the Democratic race remains confined to Minter and Dunne, it will likely be a quite competitive contest. But if someone else decides to jump in, the whole primary will get shaken up.
Hayden Dublois lives in Manchester, and is a political commentator and strategist who writes a bi-weekly op-ed column. He is an economics student at Middlebury College and a recent graduate of Burr and Burton Academy.