Fourteen months before the election, candidates have begun to announce their plans to run for Vermont governor. This week two candidates have thrown their hats into the ring.
In June, incumbent Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin announced that he would not run for reelection, fueling speculation as to who would seek the now open seat.
On August 19th Democratic House Speaker Shap Smith was the first to make a formal announcement. “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.”
This week, two more candidates say they are joining the gubernatorial race as others ponder a potential run.
On Tuesday retired Wall Street executive Bruce Lisman announced he will run as a Republican. He says it’s an opportunity to serve the state and move it in a different and more constructive direction. “It all emanates from travelling the state for the last five years talking to so many people. Their disappointment has turned to anger and their anxiety about the future has turned to disillusionment. Even the notion that our government can get things done has kind-of been eroded away. They talk about having a competent administration. They want a budget that works for them. They’ve been talking about lower property taxes, a more affordable state. They want health care reform but they want it to fit their needs. And if you talk to small business people they want it just easier to do business. So you add it all up and I think I could fix those things.”
On Wednesday, VT-Digger-dot org reported that Democrat Matt Dunne would email his supporters announcing his bid for the state’s top seat. Calls to Dunne were unsuccessful. The Google executive and former state senator has already raised nearly $200,000 for the primary race against Speaker Smith.
Vermont Democratic Party Executive Director Conor Casey says the party embraces a primary for the 2016 election. “We look at the primary as an opportunity to showcase our candidates, to increase name recognition and really hit home the democratic message over the course of the primary season to get geared up for the general election. There have been several who have expressed interest in running for the primary. So it may not be limited to just the two candidates. But certainly we embrace everybody who would jump into this race. If we can have a repeat of the 2010 election when there were actually five democrats in the primary race, and have the same outcome, that would be a beautiful thing.”
Middlebury College Professor Emeritus of Political Science Eric Davis expects the primary between Smith and Dunne to be competitive. “Smith is well known in Montpelier and will have a lot of support from sitting legislators around the state. Dunne has run statewide twice before, so he’s pretty well known also. With Dunne he’s been out of office for a while so he’ll run as an outsider and that probably his biggest strength in a political year in which outsiders seem to be favored. His challenge is convincing democratic primary voters that if they vote to nominate him he can win a statewide election after having lost two previously.”
Davis adds that Republicans are waiting for Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott to decide if he will run. “If he does that at this point I would say he would have the advantage over Bruce Lisman in a Republican primary. Bruce Lisman will probably try and pick up on the outside theme the same way Matt Dunne will on the Democratic side. Lisman will also argue that his experience in business gives him a perspective on state government that would make him a good governor.”
Democrat Sue Minter, the current Secretary of the Agency of Transportation, is also considering a run for governor.
The Vermont primary is next August.