The increasingly random race for lieutenant governor

It gives me a tingle to see that the Democrats now have three declared candidates for lieutenant governor, and their ages add up to less than 100 (34 + 29 + 28 = 93). Maybe this puts the last nail in the coffin of Sen. Dustin Degree’s claim that the VTGOP is the party of youth. (Heck, if you add any two of the Dems together, they’re younger than the lone Republican candidate, 72-year-old Randy Brock.)

Otherwise, though, the latest entry into the field leaves me wondering: Who asked for this?

Garrett Graff is an accomplished young man. I look forward to hearing what he has to offer, and God knows he’s got plenty of time to reveal it. But look: he hasn’t lived in Vermont since he graduated from high school in 1999. He’s been part of the D.C. media scene since 2004. He is only now relocating to Vermont, just in time to make noises about a candidacy.

Of the five declared candidates for Official Senate Gavel-Warmer, two are perfectly understandable: former State Senator and Auditor Randy Brock, and State Rep. Kesha Ram. After that, the field has an appearance of randomness.

Brandon Riker, junior partner in a successful commodities-investment firm, some behind-the-scenes political experience, no connections to Vermont politics, never run for any office.

Dr. Louis Meyers, Vermont resident for three years (out of 60), never held public office, a tiny bit of political experience, running as an independent with no connections or name recognition.

And now Graff, scion of a well-known Vermont media family, deputy press secretary for Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign, otherwise an observer in politics rather than a participant, never run for public office.

Maybe this is the slow-motion solution to our stagnant population and looming demographic crisis: We’ll attract new Vermonters with an open race for lieutenant governor.

Of course, that will depend — as will Graff’s candidacy, and maybe Meyers’ — on how you interpret Vermont’s constitution, as Paul Heintz pointed out.

“No person shall be eligible to the office of Governor or Lieutenant-Governor until the person shall have resided in this State four years next preceding the day of election,” the Constitution says.

… According to Secretary of State Jim Condos the wording of the Constitutional requirement is a little unclear. He says he has reached out to Attorney General Bill Sorrell’s office to clarify whether it means such candidates must live in the state for the four years immediately preceding Election Day, or just four years total.

Which brought a question to mind: Is this really the first time we’ve ever faced this question? Has no one with less than four years of residency ever run for public office in the entire history of Vermont?

Geez, maybe we are a little too provincial for our own good.

Or maybe we’ve just been ignoring that part of our Constitution all along.

Anyway, Graff is full of work-arounds for this potential pre-emption of his candidacy. He says he’s been a registered Vermont voter since he turned 18 — which makes me wonder about the legitimacy of his registration, because he’s clearly lived in Washington, D.C. since 2004. He also leans on a statute that allows people who emigrate temporarily to retain their registration if they intend to return. The latter, to my reading of the statute, is a rather creative interpretation. The law:

§ 2122. Residence; special cases; checklist

(a) A person shall not gain or lose a residence solely by reason of presence or absence while in the service of the state or of the United States; nor while engaged in the navigation of the waters of the state or of the United States or on the high seas; nor while in a hospital, nursing home, or other health care facility; nor while confined in a prison or correctional institution; nor while a member of a veterans’ home; nor while a student at any educational institution; nor while living outside the United States; nor while certified as a participant in the address confidentiality program under 15 V.S.A. chapter 21, subchapter 3.

(b) A person may have his or her name on the checklist only in the town of which the person is a resident. For the purpose of this chapter, “resident” shall mean a person who is domiciled in the town as evidenced by an intent to maintain a principal dwelling place in the town indefinitely and to return there if temporarily absent, coupled with an act or acts consistent with that intent. If a person removes to another town with the intention of remaining there indefinitely, that person shall be considered to have lost residence in the town in which the person originally resided even though the person intends to return at some future time. However, a person shall retain the ability to vote in a town of former residence for a period of 17 days after becoming a resident of a new town. A person may have only one residence at a given time.

Paragraph (a) does provide some wiggle room, but does it really apply to someone who spent more than a decade out of state, pursuing a professional trajectory that offered no clear pathway back to Vermont? And then there’s paragraph (b), which would seem to take away much of that wiggle room.

Well, the way Vermont works, Sorrell will probably devise a convenient fudge. Especially since he and Young Graff both spring from the Howard Dean family tree.

I’ve traveled far afield in this discourse, so let’s get back to the starting point. Assuming that Young Graff isn’t sidelined by Sorrell (which would also seemingly disqualify the good Dr. Meyers), I’m still left pondering the basis for his appeal. Sure, he’s Chris Graff’s son, and sure, he’s presumably part of the Howard Dean Mafia, but otherwise, how does he build a political movement? Where is his base? Who are the donors ready to bankroll a seemingly long-shot candidacy for a secondary office? Especially with the better-known and connected Ram and Brock already in the race and State Sen. David Zuckerman fully expected to join?

I’m not dismissing Young Graff. I look forward to hearing what he has to say. It’s just that, at this very early stage, I see no market for his candidacy.


1 thought on “The increasingly random race for lieutenant governor

  1. newzjunqie

    Lite Guv to me is just a way to secure name recognition for higher office unless as in Deans case, positioned to take over should something happen to the top guy.

    Soo, looks like a steady trickle of hopefulls are posturing for the possible vacating of higher offices in VT as well as sensing voter discontent which is very real.

    The residency of four years prior to a run makes the most sense and not so sure rules can be changed by someone like Sorrell by fiat.


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