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Democrat Patricia Preston discusses her campaign launch for Vermont Lieutenant Governor

Patricia Preston
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Patricia Preston

When Senator Patrick Leahy announced he will retire at the end of his current term, it opened a rare opportunity for a shuffling of Vermont leadership seats. Current at-large Congressman Peter Welch is running for the Senate seat. Vermont Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray is among those seeking the Congressional seat, opening up the second-highest state office. Two Democrats have begun campaigns for Lieutenant Governor, a position that is voted on separately from governor.

Vermont Council on World Affairs Executive Director Patricia Preston kicked off her campaign Monday. The Democrat tells WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley she is inspired to serve because of her deep roots to the state.

I'm a lifelong Vermonter and I am a product of the Vermont public school system. I actually, you know, I attended a little red schoolhouse with my sisters just down the road from from our family farm. And it's the same little red schoolhouse that my grandmother went to and my father after her. And it really helped me foster a deep love of our state. And more than that a deep appreciation for Vermont's land and community and these are some of the reasons why I'm very inspired to serve and help others. You know, I went on from this little red schoolhouse to the rest of my public education and this culminates at the University of Vermont where I worked my way through school. And then when I graduated I used my degree in education to work nationally and internationally with youth in education and I worked with vulnerable populations abroad. And all of this experience, life experience, work experience around around the country and abroad led me back home. And I came back to Vermont and I had the very fortunate opportunity to start working for an organization called the Vermont Council on World Affairs, which is a statewide focused nonprofit that brings international leaders together with Vermonters to address really important issues in our state: climate change, building economic opportunity, expanding workforce development opportunities. And, you know, I'm actually I'm really proud to say that through this work we've been able to create millions of dollars of economic impact across the state to make it a better place for residents to live. So I really think I'm uniquely qualified for this position having been rooted here, understand Vermont values, understands the people and also have all of this experience with my organization working with Vermonters and understanding their most pressing issues.

Not to be flippant or anything but it almost sounds like you mirror a lot of the current Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray's experience.

Yeah, you know, I think that with four female lieutenant governor's ever in the state of Vermont it's really easy to be quick to draw parallels between us. And I will say that I am very grateful for women like our current Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray, who have broken down barriers before me to run for office. Same with Governor Madeleine Kunin. Because this representation matters and seeing strong women leaders that have come before me of course helps me know I'm in the right place and that I want to be the next space to be that representation for other generations and other people that might be considering to run for office. And I hope that you as you get to know me that that the issues I'm passionate about will begin to show you some of our clear differences.

So Patricia Preston what is your vision for Vermont if you are elected Lieutenant Governor?

Great question. Having grown up in rural Vermont I really learned and saw firsthand since I was very little that Vermonters are tough and are very hard working people. But since I've returned, and when I was younger, I've also been able to see firsthand that too many Vermonters are being left behind and deprived of a fair chance to get ahead. So I really my vision is to see Vermont fulfill its promise: the promise to provide for people of all ages the opportunity to succeed and be rewarded for their hard work. And we are at an inflection point. Right? We are at a moment where we have unprecedented funds coming to this state. And I want to have an opportunity to help our state act quickly, reasonably and be focused on our issues that are most important to our state to see all Vermonters prosper.

What are the key issues that you would want to really you know start running with on your first day as lieutenant governor?

Great question. So many to address. But let's get to the key ones as you say. Rising costs all around but specifically rising healthcare costs. We need to make health care and prescription drugs affordable. We need to look at climate change. We need to expand clean energy production and green jobs. We also need to strengthen our workforce development and support working families. I also am very passionate about strengthening our rural communities. Specifically I'm interested in working on high speed internet. We cannot have Vermonters in this state need access to health care and not be able to receive telehealth in the middle of a pandemic. And on top of that, I mean if we go back into a more strict shutdown, which it seems like it's upon us even if it's self imposed at the moment, we need Vermonters to be able to access school, work and family so that you can you know, you don't you want to be able to jump on the phone with your family so you don't feel so disconnected. But I would reiterate the telehealth is really the biggest priority for me.

Well, Patricia Preston, some of those items that you just outlined the state's already working on like climate and the climate plan they just came out with. Obviously workforce has been an issue for years. And broadband, they're talking about the ARPA funds and other federal funds to really expand and get it all across Vermont. What would you do that would be different than what the state's already doing?

Listen that is a great question. And I think that the most important piece in this is that we have unprecedented funds coming into the state. And as you say these are issues we've been working on for years and haven't gotten to a solution. And I think that with this funding coming into the state we need to act quickly, responsibly and focus on the state's highest priorities which are the ones that I've just outlined. And and also most importantly I will bring to this a new perspective and urgency that may not be happening in Montpelier right now.

Well speaking of that new perspective and urgency there is another Democrat running: Charlie Kimball, who's in the Vermont House, serving in the Vermont House right now. And there may be other Democrats that decide to run. So you do face a primary. How do you plan to set yourself apart from the current challenger that you face and any other folks who run in the primary, even before you get to the general election?

Yeah so you know I think that it's great that there's a candidate already in and hopefully plenty more strong candidates with varying backgrounds that come into this race. What's really beautiful about this process is that Vermonters are going to have multiple candidates to select from and really get behind and support the one that they most, you know, align with. And what I'll be bringing is that I in large part have been doing a lot of this work already. I have been traveling the state looking at these issues, speaking with Vermonters, speaking with various stakeholders of all of these groups, and I am ready to step in and start moving forward on proposals at the state level.

Democrat Patricia Preston faces current Woodstock House Representative Charlie Kimbell in Vermont’s August 9th primary for Lieutenant Governor. No Republicans or Progressives have yet announced a campaign.