Voters will have a choice on election day when it comes to the office of Lt. Governor. The incumbent, Republican Phil Scott, is being challenged by a relative political newcomer.
At 30-years-old, Cassandra Gekas is one of the youngest candidates running for office. She has spent the last two and a half years working on policy for health care reform as a lobbyist for Vermont Public Interest Research Group. The Democrat made the decision to run for Lt. Governor just days before the filing deadline this spring, raising some eyebrows and questions about how serious a candidate she would be.
"I'm the type of person who isn't scared to take a leap and when I looked at where we are in Vermont, I think we have some really big issues to tackle. I am committed to making sure that in 2013 we are moving forward on health care," Gekas said.
Gekas grew up in Pennsylvania and graduated from Penn State majoring in women's studies and political science. She moved to Vermont in 2004 and is working on her master's degree from UVM in community development and applied economics. She lives in Montpelier with her two dogs.
While her main focus has been on health care, she is also concerned about working families. "I get it. I get what Vermonters are facing day-to-day because I personally know what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck, to have student loan debt, to have car payments. I have parents who don't know how they are going to afford retirement," she said.
She considers the Lt Governor's job to be full time, and when not in legislative session Gekas says she wants to help communities set up so called incubator spaces to work on social issues, or economic endeavors. She used the example of Pine Street in Burlington, where empty warehouses are now home to art galleries, shops and a dot-com business. "I don't have an interest in saying there needs to be a Pine Street in every town in Vermont. It needs to be led at the local level, based on the character of the community," she said.
Like what is happening in Hardwick, where the emphasis is on local food. "At the state level, I think it is our job to make sure that local communities are encouraged and supported in that development. It's nurturing a unique character across the state and economic development is a piece of that," Gekas said.
Gekas faces a tough campaign against popular Republican Lt. Governor Phil Scott. Part of the Lt. Governor's job is to take over for the Governor when needed. Gekas vowed she would carry on with the Democratic Governor's agenda. "I think the Governor is on the right track and Vermonters support that agenda, so the one promise I can make that differentiates me is that if called to that service I will continue those major parts of the Governor's agenda," she said.
Gekas admits she has a lot of work ahead to get her name out there and meet as many voters as she can between now and the November election.
Reporter Judy Simpson: What is the one thing you want people to think about when they hear your name -- Cassandra Gekas.
Cassandra Gekas: I would say dedication is a good way to put it for me, and that I am there fighting for them every day.
Gekas plans to travel the state campaigning -- she will be in Barre Tuesday -- and hopes to have a series of debates with Lt. Governor Scott so voters see there is a choice come election day.
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