Perhaps the closest and most contentious race in Vermont this year is for lieutenant governor. The open position features a Republican who has mounted statewide campaigns before and a Democrat in her first run for office.
In Vermont the governor and lieutenant governor are elected separately. So when Vermont Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman announced in January that he would run for governor, that meant the No. 2 seat in Vermont state government was open for the general election.
Democratic newcomer Molly Gray, an assistant state attorney general, beat three opponents In the August primary, including the Senate ProTem. Gray says she will bring a needed youthful perspective to the statehouse. “We need to bring a generation back to Vermont and we need to keep a generation here. That is the focus of this campaign. That is why I’m running. And the Lieutenant Governor’s office is really special in that it can be a platform for achieving those goals.”
Republican Scott Milne easily won his primary against four opponents. He says being in the same party and his business background are key to advancing Governor Phil Scott’s agenda. “I’m the only candidate who knows what it’s like to run a small business. And frankly I think I’m the only candidate who can offer the important perspective of the many small businesses across Vermont and their employees who are struggling now. And we need more people in Montpelier who understand my experience and can work as a trusted partner with Governor Phil Scott to get our economy back on track safely and responsibly.”
Scott is seeking a third two-year term against current Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman.
This campaign has been the most fractious. In a late September debate hosted by VPR/VTPBS part of the negativity was on display as Milne challenged Gray over her voting record. “You missed every election except two. I assume you will be voting in November since your name’s on the ballot his year?”
Gray: “When I was serving overseas I completed a ballot and it could not be counted. The difference between you and me Scott is that I haven’t been using voting as a political weapon.”
Milne: “You’ve rarely been engaged in elections throughout your entire life. You’re running for the second highest elected office in Vermont.”
Middlebury College Professor Emeritus of Political Science Eric Davis says this is the only competitive race among the top state races and is the only one utilizing negative advertising. “You have one first-time candidate on the Democratic side, Molly Gray, who won the Democratic primary convincingly. Was very well organized. Got off to a fast start. Her campaign is well funded. You have on the Republican side a candidate who has run statewide twice before and lost two races: one for governor and one for U.S. Senate and that’s Scott Milne. Because Vermont is a strongly Democratic state now that probably gives Gray a slight edge but Milne has been campaigning hard and basically Milne’s approach has been to hang on to Phil Scott’s coattails and hope that people at least vote Republican for both governor and lieutenant governor. I mean I would say this is a close race with Gray slightly favored but I wouldn’t be surprised if Milne pulled off a narrow victory.”
Davis adds since 2010 Vermont voters have chosen a governor and lieutenant governor from opposite parties.