The closest race in Vermont’s general election is for Lieutenant Governor. VPR/Vermont PBS hosted a debate Tuesday between Democrat Molly Gray and Republican Scott Milne during which the two major party candidates expressed distinct differences of opinion on what policies the state should implement.
In a VPR/Vermont PBS 2020 Poll released last week, Molly Gray polled at 35 percent and Scott Milne 31 percent — within the poll’s 4% margin of error and the closest of the races tallied. Gray is an assistant attorney general who has never run for elective office. Milne is the owner of a travel agency whose close run for governor in 2014 was decided by the legislature because neither he nor then-Governor Peter Shumlin obtained more than 50 percent of the vote.
Gray and Milne offered stark contrasts in their policy opinions during the debate moderated by Vermont Public Radio’s Bob Kinzel. He asked Milne to clarify his answer regarding the role of government in specific areas. “Just to be clear Scott Milne you would oppose legislation at the Statehouse that provided paid family leave, raising the Vermont minimum wage and providing universal child care?”
Milne: “Well I’m supportive about raising the minimum wage. Paid family leave I’m in favor of the voluntary program that Governor Scott and (New Hampshire) Governor Sununu have offered.”
Kinzel: “Molly Gray what are your thoughts about the role of government in these types of areas?”
Gray: “There isn’t one simple solution but government can’t do it alone and there’s room for public-private partnerships as well.”
A significant portion of the debate featured the candidates questioning each other. A question posed by Gray to Milne resulted in some sniping between them. “In one of your failed prior campaigns you said dark special interest money coming into Vermont was the biggest problem facing our political system. This week a dark money group have launched a $200,000 media campaign to defeat me. Will you take this opportunity to denounce this money and ask these groups to cease and desist their efforts.”
Milne: “I completely disagree with your assertion of failed campaigns past Molly. As perhaps you’ll learn you can make a difference in what happens in our political discourse without winning campaigns. I’m happy that the Republican Senate Leadership Committee came in with money. The bigger issue to me is you’ve got a PAC formed in the last two weeks who are spreading disinformation and specifically target me.”
Milne went on to criticize his opponent’s voting record. “You missed every election except two. Will you share with voters who you’ll be voting for in the race for governor?”
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: “I didn’t hear you answer the question about who you’re voting for for governor Molly. You’re running for the second highest elected office in Vermont. Who the governor is is important. Are you willing to tell us who you’re voting for for governor?”
Gray: “When you’re willing to tell us that you’re going to vote for Joe Biden for president.”
At the end of the debate Gray verified that she will vote for the Democratic ticket including Vermont gubernatorial candidate David Zuckerman.
The Progressive candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Chris Ericson, was invited to the debate but she refused the invitation.