Doug Racine, the former lieutenant governor, state senator and Human Services secretary, is considering a third run for the state’s top job. Racine had been considering a candidacy for lieutenant governor, but that field has gotten crowded. He told methat as he was gauging potential support for an LG run, he was encouraged to set his sights higher.
His willingness to run, he said, depends on assurances that he’d have the necessary support from state and federal Democratic donors and organizations. “The question is, is it a viable race or not?” Racine said. “The answer depends on the level of support.” He said he’s getting “a lot of enthusiasm” for his potential candidacy, but “that doesn’t pay the bills.” Especially since, he pointed out, the Republican Governors Association has spent millions on behalf of Gov. Phil Scott in 2016 and 2018.
Although, he said, there’s bit of uncertainty on that front. “I don’t know if Trump would let them” spend on Scott’s behalf, Racine said. “Phil is not the most popular guy in Republican circles.”
“Others who have explored a run for governor have something to lose,” he noted. “I’m retired. It’s not like I’d have to leave my job.” That’s a very real consideration for many — especially since a race against Scott is a risky endeavor.
The 69-year-old Racine was the Democratic candidate for governor in 2002; he lost narrowly in a three-way race with Republican Jim Douglas and independent Con Hogan. He sought the party’s nomination again in 2010, but lost a squeaker of a five-way primary to eventual governor Peter Shumlin, whose margin of victory was a mere 197 votes. He was Shumlin’s human services secretary from 2011 to 2014.
The Democratic “race” for governor has been noteworthy for the complete lack of willing candidates. Racine has the smarts, the experience, and the connections to make a viable race — if, as he says, he gets enough backing. Many Democrats have seemingly been content with Scott’s governorship, and the last two Democratic candidates have suffered from severe money shortages.
Would it be different this time around? It’s hard to see Scott being defeated, but Racine has come close to the governorship twice before. He’d be in a much better position than someone from the back benches or the fringes of the party. He’s still very much engaged on Democratic issues. He sure sounds like he wants this to be a serious race, not just one more lap around the track for an old warhorse.
Will he run? It’s up to Democrats. Are they willing to seriously back their party’s chosen for the first time since 2016? Are they willing to drop their sometime sickening flirtation with Scott? Will certain Democratic constitutencies stop playing footsie with the guy? Are top officials, including our Congressional delegation, willing to stop doing friendly pressers with Scott?
Big questions. This is a real test for the Vermont Democratic Party, which has suffered from the complacency that’s a natural consequence of winning almost every election that doesn’t involve Phil Scott. Can the party get organized enough to support a real challenge to Mr. Nice Guy?
The answers to those questions will likely determine whether Racine gets into the race or not. If he doesn’t, things might get truly embarrassing for a party lacking in credible options.