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Vermont Democrats Choose Progressive As Lieutenant Governor Candidate

David Zuckerman
Vermont Legislature
David Zuckerman

The candidates and political parties held unity events Wednesday following the Vermont primary this week.  In the Lieutenant Governor’s race, the Democratic primary was won by a state senator from a third party.
The primary race for Vermont Lieutenant Governor featured three candidates. David Zuckerman, a State Senator, Shap Smith, the current House Speaker, and Kesha Ram, a state representative from Burlington.

Unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s office show Zuckerman received 42.55 percent, Smith 36.45 percent and Ram 16.64 percent.

Zuckerman is a member of the Progressive Party who has in his 18 years in the Vermont House and Senate received Democratic endorsements. In his first statewide race he ran and won the Democratic primary. He credits a late endorsement by Senator Bernie Sanders for helping him win.   “I was campaigning on fundamental economic, environmental and social justice issues. And that certainly mirrors Bernie’s message as well.  Here in Vermont ultimately it is not a paired candidacy situation like it is in most states.  But Sue and I have worked together well for many years when we were legislators in the House together, certainly while she was working in the administration.  I have a lot of respect for Sue Minter and I look forward to lots of events together as well as each of our individual campaigns doing what we can to win our indiv, our races.”

Party leaders, meanwhile, must figure out how they will interact with a Progressive Party member who won the Democratic primary.  Party Executive Director Conor Casey:  “Vermont is a very unique state in that we do have a third party with the Progressive Party.  They run competitively in campaigns.  Our platforms are quite similar but they are a distinct and different party from our own. So it does complicate things when a Progressive candidate runs in a Democratic primary. After that they need to choose which banner they’ll primarily run under and at this point Dave Zuckerman has told us he’d run mainly as a Progressive but also with the Democratic label next to that on the ballot. And I think we’ll have to define our relationship and how much resources we do end up sharing.”

Among those resources are voter lists, which Zuckerman would like access to, but Casey is cagey on whether that will happen.   “Anything can be discussed. There certainly would be some concern with sharing lists that’s a culmination of decades of work by Democratic Party activists with a party that we compete with on occasion. So I know that would be a request that would be made. I think there would be other issues as well working together.  But we’d much rather see David Zuckerman than Randy Brock hold that office.”

Middlebury College Professor Emeritus of Political Science Eric Davis notes that Zuckerman was able to win over established Democrats for several reasons.   “Zuckerman was advertising more on television in the last week than anybody else in this race so it appears that he had raised more money. Second he was endorsed by Bernie Sanders and I think that helped him a lot. Another thing is that there was a third candidate in the race Kesha Ram and Kesha Ram’s vote of about 12,000 was larger than the difference between Zuckerman and Shap Smith, which was between 4 and 5 thousand votes.”

Smith entered the Lieutenant Governor’s race late after dropping out of the governor’s race to deal with his wife’s cancer.  Davis says an unknown factor is how his late campaign impacted the results.   “He might have been able to raise more money.  The other thing with Smith’s candidacy is while there’s some people who claim that Zuckerman is too far to the left to be electable in Vermont, there’s an argument that can be raised about Smith’s electability also which is that for the last 8 years he’s been Speaker of the House.  Vermonters like their individual House and Senate members. But they don’t necessarily like the legislature as a whole. So if Smith had been the nominee he would have been carrying that baggage in the fall.”

In Vermont, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor are elected separately, and the LG is a part-time position.  Zuckerman will face Republican Randy Brock, who ran unopposed, in the general election.

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