What will be a long and unusual campaign for governor of Vermont officially got under way today. Putting to rest weeks of rumors, state House Speaker Shap Smith announced this morning that he is a candidate for the state’s open governor’s seat in 2016.
Shap Smith, a Democrat, made the announcement in his hometown of Morrisville – about 10 miles northeast of Stowe. Smith was first elected to the Vermont House in 2002 and became speaker in 2009. He was surrounded by family and supporters as he officially launched his gubernatorial campaign. “Today I asked you, my family my friends and my colleagues to gather here in the heart of Morrisville, in the heart of Vermont, to announce my candidacy for the governor of the state of Vermont. I’m running for governor because the success of towns like Morrisville will be a vital part of Vermont’s future. And because I want every Vermonter to have the opportunities and the choices that I’ve had.”
Smith and the crowd had gathered in the courtyard of the former Arthur’s Department Store, which has been renovated and now houses businesses and apartments. Smith says finding new use for the building is an example of towns reinvesting in themselves. “Cities and towns across the state are leading the way. These communities and others are investing in their downtowns and in their local businesses and are seeing returns on those investments. It’s why I am so optimistic about this great state. State government needs to be an active partner in supporting vibrant and livable downtowns because we know that strengthening local communities is the key to our success.”
Smith said he will focus on making Vermont a state of opportunity, equality and equal education. He will continue working as Speaker when the legislature reconvenes in January. “I plan to continue to be speaker. I’ve talked with a bunch of people who have gone through this before and I feel confident that I’ll be able to fulfill both roles.”
Incumbent Governor Peter Shumlin — who squeaked by to win his current term — announced in June that he would not seek re-election, throwing open the race.
Despite standing in the heat and humidity, supporters were enthusiastic. Dick Sargent of Morrisville expects Smith to win the primary. “The things that he believes in are things that are good for Vermont and I want to see them happen.”
“I’m Helen Head and I’m a representative from South Burlington. He’s been an enormously effective speaker working through some very tough issues, bringing people together. Shap has often been the one who has helped to guide us to a direction that we can all move in together and I am just very excited about the prospect of him being governor.”
Former lawmaker Matt Dunne, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010, is expected to enter the Democratic field. State Transportation Secretary Sue Minter is also considering a campaign.
Republican Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott is a favorite among his party to run for Vermont’s top office, but he has not announced his plans.