The general election for Vermont Lieutenant Governor this fall will feature two candidates who have never held public office. The Democrat is running her first campaign while the GOP candidate is making a comeback bid after nearly winning the 2014 race for governor.
Among Democrats, Molly Gray won over three other challengers in Tuesday’s primary. A political newcomer, the assistant attorney general received 43.76 percent while her closest challenger current Senate Pro Tem Tim Ashe got 33 percent.
Middlebury College Professor of Political Science Bert Johnson says the race was probably the most intriguing of all the primaries this year. “Molly Gray is new to statewide elective politics but she is fairly well networked in the establishment of Vermont politics. She had some big name endorsements. She was a prodigious fundraiser and ran a very savvy media campaign both in regular media and on social media. So I think you can attribute her success a lot to those efforts.”
Gray has said she brings a more youthful perspective at a time when Vermont needs a new generation to lead the state. She says the state is at a crossroads to address issues such as child care, paid family and medical leave, access to the internet, and good jobs. “It’s a demographics crisis that we face here in Vermont. It’s justifiable social unrest. We’ve seen that nationally but also here in the state. And truly a global pandemic which is unprecedented but also gives us this opportunity to think about everything anew. And out of our greatest challenges I think come our greatest opportunities. And that’s what that crossroads is and that’s what this campaign is all about.”
Republican Scott Milne is a businessman who owns a travel agency. He has not held office but his race for governor in 2014 was so close, it had to be decided by the state legislature.
In 2016 he ran for U.S. Senate, challenging Senator Patrick Leahy. Milne won the Republican primary for Lieutenant Governor Tuesday night with 46 percent of the vote against four challengers. He said it was a great primary and looks forward to the general election contest. “You know I will say out of the gate my opponent has obviously many fine qualities and you know I’m impressed with a lot of what she brings to the table. But 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.”
Middlebury’s Johnson expects the Democrat to have an edge this fall due to the nature of the national campaign. “I think you have to say Molly Gray has the advantage just due to the party identification advantage that Democrats have in this state as well as the enthusiasm nationally for Democrats that is going to carry over into this state as well. There is going to be a high turnout among Democrats who are really anxious to vote against Donald Trump and any Democrat who’s on the ticket is going to benefit from that.”
Vermont’s governor and lieutenant governor are elected separately. Democratic Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman faces Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who is running for a third term.