Primary Preview: James Ehlers

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) James Ehlers is among four Democrats running for governor on the Aug. 14 primary ballot. The longtime clean water advocate says his record of service has prepared him to be governor.

James Ehlers

James Ehlers says his motivation to run for governor is simple. "People. Health Care. Dignified wages. Protection of the environment. Ensuring that the governor's office is actually serving the interest of Vermonters," Ehlers said.

Ehlers is best known as a clean water advocate. He's headed Lake Champlain International for years, lobbying for clean water in the Statehouse. He's also a former naval officer. He says his service has shaped his life, and he wants to continue it. He sees differences between himself and Republican Gov. Phil Scott. "It comes down to philosophy, of my willingness to put forward a people's budget. And I think that comes from my background -- a lifetime of public service," he said.

Ehlers says a people's budget will focus on the needs of Vermonters. "The governor has shown time and time again that he's willing in the name of business to allow for the exploitation of the family farm, the exploitation of labor, the exploitation of the environment," Ehlers said.

The Democratic primary includes three other candidates -- former utility executive Christine Hallquist, dance festival founder and activist Brenda Siegel and teenager Ethan Sonneborn. Ehler's says his service sets him apart. "My life has been one of service to our brothers and sisters because that's just how I see the world," he said.

If elected, Ehlers says his first term would focus on a universal health system, raising the minimum wage, and following through with clean water and environmental commitments. "These are all the things that attract and retain young families," he said.

Ehlers has faced questions about past social media posts in which his views on issues like unions and abortion appear to conflict with his current positions. He says the posts show his willingness to question conventional thinking and highlight his tendency to be a provocateur. "I am still who I am, which is a critical thinker that's open to debating points of view across the spectrum," Ehlers said.

The primary is on August 14, but early voting has already started. Next week we'll bring you stories on two more Democratic candidates.