An exciting race for Lt. Governor
The race to be the next Lieutenant Governor of Vermont is shaping up to be just as exciting as the race for Governor. On the Republican side, there is only one candidate: Randy Brock, a former State Auditor, former State Senator from Franklin County, and 2012 Republican nominee for Governor.
Brock has the benefit of not facing a primary challenge and of having decent statewide name recognition, having won a campaign for state auditor in 2004, and having run a campaign for governor as recently as 2012. However, some say the odds are stacked against him. Brock's loss to Shumlin in 2012 was overwhelming: he lost by a whopping 20 percentage points. Both Brian Dubie in 2010 and Scott Milne in 2014 came much closer to grabbing the state's top office when stacked up against Shumlin. Furthermore, Brock's fundraising numbers this time around are far from robust. By the March 15 campaign finance filing deadline, Brock had only raised about $31,000, and had spent more than two-thirds of that, leaving him with less than $10,000 cash on hand. In contrast, two of his main Democratic opponents, Kesha Ram and David Zuckerman, had raised about $103,000 and $64,000, respectively, and had thousands more in cash on hand than did Brock. For Brock's sake, hopefully his fundraising numbers have improved by the July 15 campaign finance filing deadline.
But the Democratic side is even more intriguing. For a while, the race consisted of Burlington State Representative Kesha Ram, Chittenden County Senator David Zuckerman, and Marlboro resident Brandon Riker. While Riker was able to generate substantial funds for his race, he had never held public office and had little name recognition. In March he dropped out to endorse Zuckerman, giving Zuckerman the edge in the two-person contest for the Democratic nomination. However, in May, House Speaker Shap Smith — who had previously dropped out of the race for Governor—decided to enter the race for Lt. Governor, shaking up the Democratic nomination fight entirely.
Smith has both his name recognition and insider-connections going for him. He's been Speaker since the waning years of the Douglas administration, and has ruled the House of Representatives with great control over his Democratic caucus. However, his undoing could be exactly that: he is an insider, who has essentially run a large portion of the legislative agenda in an increasingly unpopular Legislature, and has close ties to a relatively unpopular incumbent Governor. Smith's mission must be to overcome his insider-reputation while leveraging those very connections that he has built over the past several years.
Ram represents a tiny constituency in Burlington, and hasn't received as much spotlight over the last few years as her two Democratic opponents have. However, she has received the endorsement of the powerful organization EMILY's list, former Governor Madeline Kunin, and several key lawmakers. As of March 15, she is also leading in fundraising. And with Hillary Clinton at the top of the presidential ticket, and perhaps Sue Minter grasping the Democratic nomination for Governor, Ram could be a formidable opponent in the general election. Her challenge is to boost her name recognition and make clear that she has the experience to take on the state's number-two job.
Zuckerman faces a predicament. In the Legislature, he has marked himself as a Progressive first and a Democrat second. He has championed issues like the GMO labeling law and the attempt to legalize marijuana. Until recently, some thought he could leverage both his Progressive status to win the Progressive nomination on write-in votes, and win the Democratic nomination as well. But now, there is a Progressive challenger in the race, Boots Wardinski, making Zuckerman's challenge much harder. And his Progressive roots might be unappealing to more moderate Democrats. Yet, he represents the largest constituency of anyone in the race: Chittenden County. Zuckerman's task must be to reach out as more than just a Progressive idealist, and prove himself to Democrats who might otherwise turn the other way.
However you slice it, and whatever your views are, the race to be Vermont's next Lieutenant Governor will be an interesting one to follow.
Hayden Dublois lives in Manchester. He is an economics major at Middlebury College, and a recent graduate of Burr and Burton Academy. He is working on Lt. Gov. Phil Scott's campaign team in hia race for the governorship.
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