On Tuesday, Vermont will hold its earliest ever state primary. It’s an unusual year in that all seats in the House and Senate are up for election, although not all face primaries. The top five elected offices in the state will also be chosen in the general election in November. In the race to replace retiring Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin, five candidates have lined up in the Democratic primary.
Democrat Matt Dunne says he always knew it would be a tight race for Vermont’s top office. The former state representative and administrator of Americorps Vista has for the past eight years worked for Google from offices in White River Junction. Dunne says his message is creating an economy that works for all Vermonters. “What that means to me is making sure that no one who works forty hours a week is still in poverty. That means making sure that we deliver on the promise that health care is a human right and don’t let a broken website get in the way of moving to universal health care reform. And it also means that we are creating an economy for people all across the state. So this is the kind of strategies that I think will be based on our deep roots and traditions as well as moving us into the future.”
Sue Minter resigned her position as Vermont Secretary of Transportation last year to run for governor. She had previously served as the state’s Irene Recovery Officer, represented the state on the White House Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience and was a state representative from 2004 to 2010. “As governor I'm going to be focusing on three things. Number one I want to support more economic opportunity and jobs for Vermonters. The second focus for me is I’m going to look to increase the minimum wage, also expand paid family leave and education as really a powerful lever of change. My third key focus area is on our environment.”
Peter Galbraith is a two-term Vermont state Senator. In 1993 he was appointed by President Clinton as the first U.S. ambassador to Croatia. He has also served as a UN Envoy in Afghanistan. “I'm running for governor to promote economic justice and to reduce inequality. These are issues that I've cared about basically all my career and it means in practical terms raising the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour by 2021. One of the features of my campaign is that every proposal I make comes with a way to pay for it. And I'm not afraid to say that in order to fund essential government functions I'm willing to raise taxes on those who are most able to pay.”
Business and salesman H. Brooke Page is running for both governor and attorney general. In 2012 he ran against Bernie Sanders for the U.S. Senate as a Republican. He entered the gubernatorial race for two reasons. “It's wrong for the state of Vermont and the elected officials to be taxing people out of their house and home. The second reason I'm running is I'm trying to bring to the attention of the parties and the legislature how wrong it is to have open primaries.”
Cris Ericson has run for governor every two years for the past 14 years. She is a member of the U.S. Marijuana Party and is also challenging Patrick Leahy in the U.S. Senate race. She wants to reform Vermont’s Democratic Party. “When I read the Democratic primary platform, the platform for this year states that candidates are to be treated equally and I was being excluded from debates and forums. So the majority of residents of Vermont are democratic. So the best thing I can do to help the people of Vermont is to reform the Democratic Party.”
Middlebury College Political Science Chair Bert Johnson notes that this is the earliest primary in Vermont history and he anticipates a lower turnout than 2010’s 23 percent. “It could be a fairly tight race in the top two and in this race especially what we have to pay attention to is turnout. Turnout is going to be very low. So it's in many ways unpredictable who's going to come out on top because it's not predictable who's going to actually turn out to vote on a early August Tuesday.”
Full-length interviews with all the candidates are here: