Democrat Kitty Toll discusses her campaign for Vermont Lieutenant Governor
Candidates continue jumping into the race for Vermont Lieutenant Governor as first-term Democrat Molly Gray runs for Congress. A number of Democrats and Republicans have announced campaigns. Former Vermont House member Kitty Toll started her bid Friday. The Democrat from Caledonia County spent 12 years in the Vermont House before she stepped down after its last biennium. Toll tells WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley she is running because she has the fiscal and policy background to serve as Lieutenant Governor.
I felt like I wanted to have my voice back at the table. In Vermont, as you know, we have an unprecedented amount of federal dollars. And I was the former chair of House Appropriations Committee. And I have a lot of experience with budgets and I want a voice how we invest those dollars so that way into the future we are still benefiting from investments in broadband and housing and climate and childcare. You know all issues that are so important. And so that is one reason is because of my budgeting background. And another reason is I'm really unsettled with the state of democracy in this country and I know this division is starting to creep into Vermont and I really want to do my part to make sure that Vermont continues with respectful dialogue, civil discourse, talking to each other, working together, bringing everybody to the table to make decisions. And I really fear for the fragileness of our democracy. And I want to be part of the solution and not part of this divide that is being created.
Kitty Toll, on your website you say that Vermont is at a crossroads. Is that what you meant or were there other issues that you're referring to?
I've been saying that a lot for the last couple of months. When I left the legislature we had already received a great deal of federal funding but much more has come in. I really want to ensure that we make these investments that benefit the public and the public good far, far into the future.
Kitty Toll, the lieutenant governor doesn't introduce legislation and really isn't a part of the, a direct part of the process in committees. So how would you be able to accomplish the goals that you would like to see done that you're spelling out here?
I fully understand that the role of the lieutenant governor is limited. And you're not developing policy. You're not voting unless there is a tie. You're not assigned to a committee. However there can be a lot of purpose to the office of Lieutenant Governor. You have a statewide platform, a voice, to share issues that are very important to the future of Vermont. Also I have a strong history with working with members of the legislature and with the Senate. I have a good relationship with people that are in some of the leadership positions. And I'm hoping that as lieutenant governor that I would offer to be involved in discussions or in small groups trying to figure out solutions to issues or bringing people together. I don't think that the office needs to be stale and inactive. And I have a lot of budgeting experience.
You've mentioned a lot about budgeting and appropriations, a lot of the fiscal aspects of this, particularly with the ARPA funds coming in. Would that be your priority as lieutenant governor or are there other issues that are either parallel to the monetary issues or something that you also want to look into as lieutenant governor?
Well most things follow the money. And so when you're looking at housing issues; when you're looking at spreading broadband throughout every corner of the state; when you're looking at initiatives to alter the devastating course of climate change; they all lead back to money. And so I think that the policy pieces in the money work and I know they work hand in hand. And so that's where I think a strong voice at the table of someone who has balanced the state budget and has had unanimous votes, every vote out of committee for my four years and I did more than one budget a couple of years were all on unanimous votes. So I have a strong history of bringing people and parties together. So understanding the money would allow me to advocate I think in a better light for many of the policy positions.
Kitty, you have some Democratic primary opponents, one of whom served as lieutenant governor in the past. What sets you apart from at least those Democratic individuals that you first have to challenge in a primary?
I think the biggest thing, and I've talked quite a bit about it with you, the biggest thing is my experience of writing the state budget and working with the administration. When you sit on the Appropriations Committee and when you chair it you are working with the administration day in and day out. You're hearing from all of the agencies and the departments within the agencies and you're hearing from the secretaries and commissioners. And that's on a daily basis. So I already have that working relationship and understanding of working with the administration and I think that is key especially in the role of Lieutenant Governor. It's a great overview of state government sitting on that committee. And my mantra is to find solutions and to bring all people to the table. I think that's where you come to many of your best decisions are when you understand each other's points of views. And sometimes things come to light that you don't expect. That's part of my passion for running again is just this division in this country and Vermont isn't there. We don't work that way. We still have respect in civil discourse, and we build relationships. And I think that is so important in order to keep our democracy alive and well. You don't always have to agree and sometimes you can never agree. But you have to listen and be respectful and have a willingness to find solutions.
So far, Kitty Toll faces former Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman, Woodstock Representative Charlie Kimbell and Vermont Council on World Affairs Executive Director Patricia Preston in a Democratic primary.
Republican Senator Joe Benning and former Rutland GOP chair and businessman Gregory Thayer are also running for Vermont Lieutenant Governor.