The race for governor will offer a stark contrast

This year’s election will trigger a turnover at the top perhaps unprecedented in Vermont history. A new governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and new heads of the House and Senate will all be in place by next January. And heading into the campaign, Vermont’s two major parties are offering completely different visions of the state of our state and the mood of its people.

Republicans see Vermonters as tired of high taxes, government intrusion, and the restless reformism (as they see it) of the Shumlin administration.

You’d expect Democrats to be treading cautiously. They are in the tightrope position of simultaneously defending their tenure in power, and crafting a distinctive profile going forward. Not to mention its persistently strong incrementalist tendencies.

However. Driven by Bernie Sanders’ overwhelming success in our primary, the party is moving leftward. There is a sense that Vermonters are ready for even more decisive change, even more government, a more aggressive push to lift up the downtrodden and blunt the sharp edges of capitalism.

Not too long ago, raising the minimum wage to $10.50 incrementally over three years’ time seemed like the best we could do. Now, $15 is the new standard.

This year, Democrats patted themselves on the back for passing a very modest paid sick leave bill. Now, gubernatorial candidates are openly calling for paid family leave, a much more radical step, and one that would be unthinkable under current Statehouse leadership.

A year and a half ago, Governor Shumlin threw in the towel on single payer health care. Since then, there’s been little progress on further reform. Now, Democrats aiming to succeed Shumlin are trumpeting the steps they would take toward universal coverage.

So, who’s right? The Republicans or the Democrats?

It’ll make for a study in contrasts we’ve rarely seen in recent years. Going back at least to the Howard Dean administration, our governors and would-be governors have actively triangulated: appealing to the center, and seeking to distance themselves from their parties’ outward wings. When they haven’t sought the middle (see: Ruth Dwyer and Randy Brock), they’ve been soundly rejected by the voters.

This year is looking like a real showdown between mutually exclusive visions of Vermont and its people. It’ll be an interesting campaign, and arguably decisive for at least our near-term political landscape.


7 thoughts on “The race for governor will offer a stark contrast

  1. newzjunqie

    Bernie is now a favorite stepson with home court advantage esp in Chittenden Cty namely Burlington where Bernie & Jane are a power couple, Burlington College fail notwithstanding.

    But if he ran for a state position, even governor, esp following the ruination caused by of 10+ years of leftwing supermajority culminating in six years of one-party rule I think he’d lose.

    There is life outside of CC the rest of VT is right-left leaning moderate swinging either way based on strength of candidate. Leard election drift is partly b/c the sorry lot on right cannot get its act together to attract younger conservatives to take an active role in the party & running for office. While I’m quite sure Scott will make it there will still be the legislature to contend with which makes Lismans’ ridiculous assertion of Scott being an insider all the more laughable.

    Would not be surprised if Lisman ran as Indy since he had to have known making it in the primary as an R would never happen.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Yeah, well, one-third of all Vermonters live in Chittenden County, so you can’t really dismiss it as a power base. Also, there are also strong pockets of liberal/progressive sentiment in central Vermont, the Upper Valley, the southeast, and Bennington. There’s so little population elsewhere that the Republicans face a huge structural disadvantage statewide.

      And you’re wrong about Bernie. He’d win in a walk, no matter what he was running for.

  2. newzjunqie

    One-third of Vermonters live in CC — quite a large # given the acreage involved here — plus it’s 1/3 guaranteed to vote left & Dem. So that leaves 2/3 up for grabs. True left is strong in UV on both sides of the river. As you head to Randolph & north, surrounding towns are old-time VT. True Windham Cty & SE VT pretty solid Dem. North to Windsor Cty Springfield & surrounding area votes Dem I think. But it’s still primarily ‘pockets’ outside of the few solid D/P areas outside of CC.

    However if there had been solid R candidates it may not have been this way — part of my point –no strong choices.

  3. nortryder

    You notice how he keeps win senate elections. Who do you suppose votes in them? One of the reasons the republican party is doing so poorly in VT is that the offer no substance. Some rich prick from Bear Stearnes? Really? Whats he going to do? Make Vt a Banking mecca?

  4. Dave Katz

    The purported rightward drift of Americans’ political sentiment of the 80s, 90s, and the 00s was always a chattering class figment, aided and abetted by the utter capitulation of the Democratic Party, who couldn’t seem to throw their base under the bus fast enough. Nowhere to go, no one to take up their causes, their leaders running as fast away from their party’s proud uplifting traditions and into the arms of The Money, the superheated Mighty Wurlitzer of well-financed reactionary screeching how these Americans, the winners of WWII and our parents, their children, the most college-educated generation in history, were not real Americans because they would think too much, and would question their leaders too much, and would give too much to those undeserving Thems, and would reliably go all soft on bloodshed and war and hate– these Americans, who still spoke to each other the strong, clear truths that had rallied older generations to reach for hope and triumph in the face of nuclear darkness and assassination, who spoke the truths that had wrestled Jim Crow, the Klan, Joe McCarthy, Lester Maddox and George Wallace down into the tiny box they deserved, never stopped wanting their dreams to come to pass. The wheel of history has to turn, the box has sprung open again, and the sides are clear, the consequences of failure once again dire. Maybe we have found, through some kind of mass consciousness awakening now, today, what it is that’s true, and who it is we want to be.


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