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David Zuckerman talks about his Vermont Democratic primary win and seeking a seat he has held before

David Zuckerman
Pat Bradley/WAMC
David Zuckerman (file)

When current Vermont Congressman Peter Welch announced he would run for retiring U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy’s seat, first-term Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray decided to run for the U.S. House seat, opening up the lieutenant governor post. The winner of the Democratic primary was Gray’s immediate predecessor David Zuckerman, who left the post two years ago to campaign unsuccessfully for governor.

After winning the primary, David Zuckerman reflected on his campaign and the work that still remains before the November general election. As he looked forward, he said one of the things he is hearing from voters is that many Vermonters are struggling.

“They are struggling with bills. They are struggling to put fuel in their tanks. They are struggling thinking about the winter and how they’re going to keep their homes warm. They’re struggling to think about if they’re going to have homes or a roof over their head. We know the rental situation in Vermont is extremely tight. We know that being able to buy a home in Vermont is out of reach for so many Vermonters. We know that health care costs are really driving people to the edge. Small businesses are struggling to survive. Farms are struggling to survive. There’s a lot of challenges out there. And that’s a lot of responsibility for myself and others who are going to be campaigning and I want to recognize that. That these races are really about the people out across Vermont and what is it that government can do both proactively for people and where we can even get out of the way sometimes to help people’s lives get better.”

Zuckerman, a Democrat and Progressive, worked previously with Republican Governor Phil Scott and addressed how he would interact if both are elected in November.

“Well I will continue to put my hand out to work with him on any and all issues that he wants to collaborate on. We don’t see eye to eye on a number of things. He’s vetoed a number of bills that I disagree with. On the other hand, I think there’s a mutual recognition about the economic struggles Vermonters are facing. I think there could be more urgency on some of the issues folks are facing with respect to bills every day as well as the climate and as well as dealing with some of the social injustices that are going on in our society. And I will pursue those opportunities wherever they present themselves with the Governor, with Vermonters, with the House and Senate leadership and bringing more people into the process.”

Zuckerman held the post from 2017 until January 2021 and feels his primary win reflects more than name recognition from voters.

“It’s real familiarity. I have been working across this state for 20 years plus on issues relating to economics, like raise the minimum wage, to social equality, like marriage equality, on climate and environmental issues. And so the folks who really care about economic injustice, climate challenges and social injustice have that history with me knowing that I work collaboratively with folks outside the building to make change inside the building.”

With the primary over Zuckerman will now campaign against Republican Joe Benning, whom he has worked with in the state Senate. But he says he’s not changing how he campaigns.

“I’m going to run the same campaign style that I’ve done for many, many years. Grassroots connections all over the state. We had really good connections with people. I’m going to keep reaching out. I’m going to keep listening. You know when you get to every corner of the state as I have for 20 years you keep going back and you keep listening and you keep having conversations with people. You know certainly I’ll have my debates with Joe (Benning) and we have deep respect for each other. I think it will be a really positive campaign which I respect and look forward to. But it’ll be very similar. It’s the people that matter.”

The position is often perceived as ceremonial, a characterization Zuckerman bristles over.

“I regularly get frustrated with the definition of it being ceremonial. It’s true that the definitions of the office are relatively narrow and clear. On the other hand, there’s a lot of opportunity to this office to do that organizing. And if you look at all the groups that endorsed me in the primary, they know that with me it can be a more powerful office by collaborating with Vermonters to build that influence on the process from voters to the representatives to make things happen. So it does not have official legislative duties, but in the unofficial capacity of an ambassador from the Statehouse across the state to the people of Vermont I will continue to do that and use that office to help influence policy.”

The unofficial results from the August 9th primary show that Zuckerman won the Democratic primary with 41.5 percent, Kitty Toll received 36.9 percent and Patricia Preston and Charlie Kimbell trailed with 9 and 7 percent, respectively.

In the Republican primary Benning outpaced Gregory Thayer 48 to 39 percent.

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