Primary Preview: Meet the Democratic candidates for Vt. lt. governor
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Four Democrats are vying to become Vermont’s lieutenant governor but must first face off in the August 9 primary. While the two Republican candidates stand on opposite sides of the political spectrum in their primary, the political differences between David Zuckerman, Patricia Preston, Charlie Kimbell, and Kitty Toll are more nuanced.
At his Hinesburg farm, David Zuckerman is growing a fresh campaign to get his old job as lieutenant governor back. Despite losing to incumbent Governor Phil Scott in 2020, with name recognition as his fertilizer, the Progressive/Democrat is hoping to harvest votes from Vermonters happy with his track record. “Really, a track record of promoting issues that sometimes take longer because the political establishment isn’t ready -- but the public’s ready,” Zuckerman said.
During his 20 years split between the Vermont House and Senate, Zuckerman has championed cannabis reform and marriage equality. Now, he’s keying in on the four years he spent sitting in his former seat presiding over the Senate. “I know how it works. We can hit the ground running, especially with a lot of new members. I think it will be helpful to have stability at the forefront of the room,” Zuckerman said.
As a small business owner having witnessed the spike in the price of products, he says he’s focused on fighting for the working class. “And with the urgency of the times -- between the climate, the economic struggles people are facing, the racial and social justice issues we have to address -- having that experience of bringing people into the process,” Zuckerman said.
Born and raised on a multi-generation dairy farm in Orange County, Patricia Preston is also committed to climate action and strengthening rural communities. The nonprofit executive would follow in the footsteps of current Lt. Governor Molly Gray -- who also didn’t previously serve in the statehouse -- which she thinks will be to her benefit. “We cannot expect new results doing things the exact same way we’ve been doing them,” Preston said. “The idea that this role is dependent on pre-existing relationships -- that dynamic largely shifts with such a turnover.”
As the president and CEO of the Vermont Council on World Affairs, Preston says she has consistently collaborated with state lawmakers, the Scott administration, and Vermont congressional delegation. And she says she has been utilizing civil discourse as a tool to reach consensus in her organization. Preston argues that’s exactly what makes her a uniquely qualified leader. “I have been traveling the state over the last 10 years meeting with Vermonters and talking to them about the issues that they’re facing and I’ve been mobilizing people, bringing them together, holding forums,” she said.
Rep. Charlie Kimbell, D-Windsor, is also a candidate who’s comfortable behind a computer and out in the community. The moderate Democrat is the only contender currently in the Capitol. The life-long Vermonter has been serving Windsor County for three terms. “I’ve been involved in the policy trench for six years, so I already have those relationships and I can really leverage those, I think, into trying to shape policy and bring in other lawmakers that I know are concerned about the same thing,” Kimbell said.
He says a key element of his campaign is to elevate the conversation about workforce development. His professional resume is packed with jobs including community banking, art licensing and publishing, and retail operations. He’s a member of the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee and says he wants to bridge the legislative and executive branches, utilizing his tight ties to the Vermont State College System, Department of Labor, and career and technical education centers. “Because there are some things that just fall through the cracks between different committees, between different agencies, educational institutions, and there’s no one really overseeing it all,” he said.
Kitty Toll also emphasizes her experience at the Statehouse. The former Danville representative served in the House for 12 years, four of which she spent as chair of the key House Appropriations Committee. Toll plans to apply that critical financial knowledge to identify how the state’s multi-billion dollar budget dovetails with policy. “Vermont is at a crossroads. We have an unprecedented amount of federal dollars in this state and I really feel this is our one shot to make really critical investments in Vermont that will last for generations,” Toll said.
She is dedicated to amplifying and balancing efforts to build housing, expand broadband, and bolster child care. She says she will draw on lessons learned as the youngest of 14 children and as a middle school teacher -- negotiation and compromise. “I really feel democracy is hanging by a thread, and I have a long history of bringing groups of people together and finding a path forward on complicated issues. And with the budget, most of the issues are very complicated,” Toll said.
The August 9 primary winner will challenge the GOP nominee in the general election on Nov. 8.
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