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Vermont Lieutenant Governor-elect David Zuckerman discusses returning to the Statehouse and a job he previously held

David Zuckerman
Pat Bradley/WAMC
David Zuckerman

Vermont Democrat/Progressive David Zuckerman is preparing to return to the Statehouse after winning the race for Lieutenant Governor on Election Day. It’s a position he’s familiar with, having held the state’s second-highest constitutional office from 2017 until 2021. He lost a race for governor in 2020. Zuckerman tells WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley he wants to continue his advocacy on behalf of Vermonters.

A lot of folks were really pleased with the work I did as lieutenant governor, reaching out across the state really talking to everyday Vermonters and how to empower their voice in the process and I plan to continue that. And at the same time, I've just gotten back from a meeting with business leaders in Burlington and others that I'm working to build stronger bridges to with respect to how we can really strengthen our economy and our whole system here in Vermont in a way that we haven't seen. As someone coming from the left, as a small business owner. meeting with business folks who know that I've got a pension for our climate and our workers. But working to build those bridges, whether it's political bridges, or economic bridges, I think we've got to really look forward and figure out how to work together

When you say you're going to empower the voices of Vermonters in the legislature, you can't submit legislation. So how within the legislature can you empower Vermonters' voices?

Well, when I first became lieutenant governor, almost six years ago, I put out an electronic newsletter across the state reminding folks that one of the ways they can influence the process is not only through the voting booth, but then also reaching out to their legislators when important policy is in front of them. And that next day I had three different senators come up to me and say, oh I hear you're encouraging my constituents to give me a call. And the reality is when 10 or 15, or even five or six in a House district call their legislators on a topic it makes a difference. It gets noticed by those legislators. And so working with Vermonters who care about the economic wellbeing of working people or the climate and our future and being a conduit for them as far as helping them know when to make those phone calls, and how to be effective when making those phone calls, is something that I did a few years ago and it was widely appreciated and supported by a number of people. And I look forward to doing more of that.

David Zuckerman, do you think it was the issues that you presented to the voters that you want to focus on or your past experience that resonated more with the electorate and got you reelected? Well, it's hard to find the phrase reelected when it's been a two year gap.

I know I'm trying to forget whether I'm reelected or not. Right. I guess I'm a little bit reelected and maybe newly elected, I'm not really sure. You know, I think it's hard to pin it all on an either-or situation. I think a lot of folks respected my experience. A lot of folks vote based on who they know and name recognition and clearly because I've been statewide before I had an advantage in this race. But I also think the issues that I've espoused are resonant with the vast majority of Vermonters. We've got to figure out how to make an economy that works for everyone. That resonates with a lot of folks. Talking about and working on climate issues and the rural economy, as a farmer, those resonate with a lot of folks. So I think it's probably a combination of experience, name recognition and issues that afforded me the opportunity to win.

You haven't been in the legislature for two years. And those two years were COVID years. What are you reviewing regarding what was done over the past two years, whether it's legislatively or how they got things done, as you prepare to return to the Statehouse?

Well, sure. I think there's some real, some really good lessons from this last couple of years. I was there when we started going remote and we figured that out on the fly. As far as the issues go, I think, you know, the COVID experience is going to be something we'll be working from for a number of years. We've certainly learned where some real holes in the system are. We also learned where the system was really resilient and where Vermonters are really resilient. And we've got some challenges ahead. And if we can work off of those strengths to tackle those challenges, whether it's affordable housing or childcare or the climate, I think we have some real opportunities ahead.

David Zuckerman, both the House and the Senate will have supermajorities when they convene in January. Does that help you in your role as lieutenant governor as you preside over the Senate? Will it have any influence over the operation of your office at all?

No, I don't think so. The Senate is a fairly similar majority, supermajority, as it had four years ago and two years ago. And ultimately, you know, the process is still critically important to bring in perspectives from across the spectrum. And I will continue to help to try to do that. Whether it's folks that agree with me or folks that disagree with me. And so the process should stay solidly transparent and fair no matter what the majorities are. I think the opportunities for policy are greater with the greater majority, particularly where the House had a little bit of a difficult time overriding the governor in the past around climate and workers. I think those opportunities will now be revealed to move policy forward whether the governor wants to participate in the legislative process or just veto at the end like he did last time. That is where I think that probably the shift has affected the governor more so than my role in the building.

Speaking of the governor, that was another thing that came up during debates during the campaign with your opponent saying he would be able to interact with Governor Phil Scott better and saying that you basically had minimal interaction with the Republican governor during your tenure, you know, in the two years that you were there. Are you going to change how you interact with Governor Phil Scott this time around?

Well, I think really that's a question for the governor. I certainly was willing and would continue to be willing to work with the governor if he and his administration choose to be collaborative. It is certainly his decision. He is the top office holder in the state and it was his decision a few years ago to decide that we would not work together. I reached out with some ideas. I'm happy to continue to reach out with ideas that are not particularly partisan or left right, that are about efficiency in government, about health care for and research on Lyme and tickborne illness for Vermonters of all political stripes. So if the governor is interested in working on efficient government, using our resources well to help everyday Vermonters and tackling these nonpartisan ticks I'd be happy to work with him. But ultimately I think that's more a question for the governor. But I look forward to the opportunity if he's willing.

What is your first priority going to be when you get back in the Statehouse as lieutenant governor?

Well, certainly to make sure the process gets started smoothly. I'm working with the two other senators on the Committee on Committees to get our assignments figured out so we can hit the ground running. And then to continue to bring the public in and make sure that these issues that are on people's minds can and will get addressed as quickly as possible. You know, what I heard about was economic issues like housing, childcare, basic needs, budgeting, as well as the climate and I'll continue to speak to those issues and work to elevate those issues.

In the race for Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman defeated Republican Joe Benning, a 12-year veteran of the state Senate.

The Vermont Legislative session begins on January 4th.

Republican Governor Phil Scott won a fourth term.

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