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Primary Preview: Sen. John Rodgers' 'noncampaign campaign'

(WCAX)
Published: Aug. 3, 2018 at 1:25 PM EDT
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A Northeast Kingdom lawmaker isn't on the ballot for the upcoming August 14 primary, but he still wants to be governor. Sen. John Rodgers, D-Essex/Orleans County, is a write-in candidate, but he's leaving the campaigning to supporters who promised to do the legwork on the long-shot effort.

"The joke is it's a noncampaign campaign," Rodgers said.

Rodgers considered a traditional run but decided instead to focus on his masonry business and upstart hemp farm. Hemp plants grow just feet from his front door.

"If money was no object, I would have jumped in," Rodgers said.

But others weren't satisfied with his decision, Including Angelo Napolitano.

"I like the way he talks about being a constitutionalist and that he sticks up for the rights of all Vermonters," Napolitano said.

Besides the Waitsfield supporter, Rodgers has inspired a host of Vermonters with his ardent opposition to new gun laws. But Napolitano says there's a broader message that has appeal.

"Everybody's saying he's a single issue candidate. He isn't," he said.

A handful of supporters asked Rodgers for permission to wage a write-in campaign on his behalf-- and he agreed.

"They didn't have anybody that they felt like supported their values and no one that they could support for governor, and I was kind of feeling the same way," Rodgers said.

As governor, Rodgers says he will highlight rural economic development and agriculture. He says rural areas feel overshadowed by more urban ones.

"It is Chittenden County that's driving the bus here in this state now," he said.

Education is also a top priority since public schools now offer much more than class work.

"If we don't support our children, then we're only gonna have another generation of people who are not productive," Rodgers said.

Rodgers says he'll be guided by the lessons he learned growing up on the family farm in Glover.

"Be honest, be polite and work hard, and good things will happen. And that's how I try to live my life," he said.

Napolitano, an independent with a libertarian leaning, is focusing on reaching people through social media and a website featuring videos.

"Because the man has integrity and honor. He doesn't lie to people," Napolitano said.

He says he voted and campaigned for Phil Scott last time around, but says the governor broke promises, including on guns.

"He made a promise to me. Me. I don't care about anybody else. Me. Not once. Not twice. Three times. Me," he said.

A write-in campaign has never succeeded for a statewide race, but Rodgers still has hope.

"I think anything's possible in politics," he said.

If Rodgers doesn't win this time, Napolitano says Plan B is to have Rodgers run a traditional campaign in 2020.

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