Vermont's lieutenant governor and former state education secretary are among the candidates seeking to win the Democratic nomination in Tuesday's primary to run against popular incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who's expected to win the GOP primary.
Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, former Vermont Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe, attorney Patrick Winburn, of Bennington, and activist Ralph “Carijou” Corbo, of Wallingford, are running in the Democratic primary.
On the Republican side, Douglas Cavett, of Milton; John Klar, of Brookfield; Bernard Peters, of Irasburg; and Emily Peyton, of Putney, are challenging Scott for the GOP nomination. Two perennial candidates, Cris Erickson, of Chester, and Boots Wardinski, of Newbury, are running as Progressives.
The campaigns have largely been waged online because of the coronavirus pandemic and that is expected to continue until the general election.
On the Democratic side, there's a competitive race between Zuckerman, a former longtime legislator, and Holcombe, who has never run for office. Zuckerman, 48, of Hinesburg, said he had been thinking about running throughout last summer and fall but that reports coming out in the late fall about “the imperative nature of the climate crisis” worldwide pushed him to run.
“I've been fighting for our environment and climate for a long time and I was really concerned about two major issues: the climate and the rural economy and working people. I think the governor is a really admirable person but he hasn't been really visionary on how to address these issues," Zuckerman said.
Holcombe, 53, of Norwich, served as education secretary for four years under former Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. She continued in the position when the Scott administration took office in January 2017, but resigned in March 2018.
“I really love what makes this state special from our communities to the incredible land where we live and really feel that we have significant challenges and need to have real solutions, not all because we're running out of time to fix some of these challenges,” she said, pointing to the cost of health care, a shortage of well-paying jobs for young people, climate change and social justice issues.
Scott, a Republican, a former state senator who first became governor in 2017 after serving three terms as lieutenant governor, should easily win his primary. If so, his Democratic challenger in November will be facing a governor who has earned praise for his response to the coronavirus pandemic in a state where an incumbent hasn't lost in decades.
In the primaries for lieutenant governor, voters have a choice of five Republicans, four Democrats, and one progressive to replace Zuckerman.
Voter turnout is expected to be much higher than usual, with many Vermonters voting early by mail, said retired Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis. Secretary of State Jim Condos had urged Vermonters to get their absentee ballots in the mail by Aug. 4 or to drop them off at their town clerk’s office by Aug. 10.
“What that means in many ways is the election is almost over,” Davis said.