On Tuesday night, Vermont voters elected Molly Gray as the state’s next Lieutenant Governor. The current assistant attorney general had never run for office but garnered a number of high-profile endorsements including from Senator Patrick Leahy, Congressman Peter Welch, former Governor and Ambassador Madeline Kunin and former Governor Peter Shumlin. She defeated Republican businessman Scott Milne, who had twice run for office, and the outcome between the two was the closest among the state’s top races. On Wednesday morning Molly Gray told WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley following the election results was a rollercoaster but a very special night.
“I'm just so deeply humbled and honored to have won the election and so ready to get to work for Vermont and already starting to think about what comes next. Looking forward, looking forward every single day and we've got so much work to do and I look forward to getting to it.”
Pat Bradley: “Did you find as you were out on the campaign trail that there was a single issue that resonated or were voters looking more at a mix of concerns?”
Molly Gray: “Throughout this campaign I’ve really been mirroring back or echoing back to Vermonters the issues that they brought up, you know, childcare and equal access to childcare across the state, internet and broadband access and especially during this pandemic where folks are trying to remote work or navigate online learning. Our small businesses continue to struggle. And I got into this race because of our demographic challenges trying to keep a generation here and bring a generation back. And throughout this campaign one thing that has come up again and again is that those demographic challenges that we face and the issues that really relate to a generation that wants to stay here are the same issues that Vermonters are facing because of the pandemic. So I see this moment as one where we can recover stronger from COVID-19 and we can do that in a way that sets us up for a more resilient, a more equitable, a more sustainable future for the state and one that's able to attract and retain workers in Vermont.”
Bradley: “Molly, one of the things that struck me in your speech on Election Night was that you said rural communities need a voice in Montpelier. But most of Vermont is rural. So wouldn't most of the representatives in Montpelier be bringing a voice of rural communities to the Statehouse? So can you kind of expand on what you meant by that?”
Gray: “Absolutely. I grew up in Orange County in a little town called Newbury on a vegetable and dairy farm. And one thing that I'd seen and one thing that I've heard from small towns, like Newbury, across the state, I mean, really rural towns, there's more lights off than lights on. And when I talk about our demographic challenges I mean our declining workforce, our shrinking tax base, and our small towns are struggling. And if we're going to, to help them, we need to give them a continued voice. And I look forward to being a lieutenant governor that draws on my background as someone from a small town in rural rural Vermont and understanding the needs of our rural communities. And that's what I meant by that.”
Pat Bradley: “You also acknowledged that the Lieutenant Governor doesn't write laws or make laws. That's really the rest of the legislative body. What sort of a difference do you think you will make as Lieutenant Governor?”
Molly Gray: “We're going to need the best and the brightest businesses, community leaders, nonprofit leaders at the table as we look to the future and that’s just to give an example. And I see this office as one that's incredibly well placed to galvanize the expertise we have in Vermont right now to help us figure out childcare, for example, or broadband or workforce development or state colleges. But really putting people communities, families and their needs before politics every single day. And if I can just talk about that for a moment. I think you can tell a lot about how someone will lead by how they campaign and I'm really proud of the campaign that we ran. And I say we because I mean the thousands of Vermonters who supported the campaign, volunteered, my incredible team of Vermont campaign staff. And I think the the outcome of this election you know it's also about a forward looking positive issue-focused future for Vermont and that's really what I'll continue to do as Lieutenant Governor. And it's what we focused on in the campaign, but we'll focus on in the office as well.”
Bradley: “Molly, your victory has more or less solidified a 10 year or so tradition of Vermonters electing the governor and lieutenant governor being from different parties. How is that going to affect your goals and your efforts to move Vermont forward and try to accomplish what you feel needs to be done?”
Gray: “We have to get to work or continue working hard. I mean, I think first and foremost we are all Vermonters and we have to remember that. We need to put politics aside. This was an incredibly divisive campaign. We've seen a lot of divisiveness nationally. As I said I think this is a moment where we just have to put our communities, our families, recovering stronger from COVID-19 at the forefront. And, and that is our focus. So I look forward to centering my office around that sort of value and working with the legislature, working with our governor and I look forward to connecting with him soon and his administration to figure out how I can help and what that's going to look like. And then every day getting around the state connecting with Vermonters doing what we've done throughout this campaign and making sure that as we align our budget with our greatest needs we know what those needs are. And I want to be an office and a lieutenant governor that's every day there for Vermonters and that begins right now and over the coming months and we prepare. Absolutely.”
Pat Bradley: “Well, you just also touched on one of the other questions I had, if you had heard from Governor Scott yet and if not do you have plans to make contact with him?”
Molly Gray: “I have not heard from him yet. I suspect he's making a lot of calls. I suspect I will. But I certainly will be reaching out and look forward to sitting down with him when the time allows.”
Bradley: “And have you had a chance to have an extended conversation with David Zuckerman who has been lieutenant governor for the last couple years?”
Gray: “Before launching into this campaign in earnest actually took time to sit down with all of our former lieutenant governors, except for Brian Dubie and we just didn't have a chance, including David and I plan to take a lot of time over the coming weeks and months to do that follow up again so that I'm ready on day one to lead effectively, both in presiding over the Senate but working with the Legislature, working with the governor. And most importantly being a place where Vermonters know they can come to help navigate government, to help access different programs or services being available because there's really no time to waste. And I look forward to being an extremely effective lieutenant governor.”
Gray and other winners of state offices will be sworn in after the Vermont Legislature returns for a new biennium on January 6th.
It is not known yet if the session and swearing in will be in-person or virtual.