Editorial: Vote next Tuesday — primaries matter, especially this year
It’s normal to have several candidates vying for the two top offices in the state during every primary. But typically the two major party candidates are well known and the primary serves as a warm-up to the General Election.
For Democrats, this year is an exception.
In the race for governor, Democratic candidate Rebecca Holcombe, a former Secretary of Education under Gov. Shumlin who also served during the first term under Republican Gov. Phil Scott, is running a competitive campaign against two-term Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman. She brings an expertise in education to the job, while also having served in the administrations of two governors.
Both Zuckerman and Holcombe have much to offer Vermont voters, and the Democratic Party.
Holcombe is the new-comer to statewide elections, while Zuckerman was first elected to the House in 1996 and has been making the rounds statewide for many of those years for one cause or another.
As a campaigner, Zuckerman has the advantage of having been to numerous potluck suppers, county fairs and neighborhood coffees — shaking hands and getting known on that personal level — over the past 24 years. Holcombe, on the other hand, has had to make due with press releases, debates, socially distanced events in this COVID-19 era, and social media appeals in lieu of more direct contact with voters.
Politically, Zuckerman stakes out a more progressive perspective in a year in which the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is ascendant. Holcombe’s background and experience in education is ideal at a time when school instruction — either remote on in-class learning — is the top issue facing the state for many Vermonters. She also brings a pragmatic approach to solving problems without being hamstrung by political ideals. Both are climate change activists, pledge to help make Vermont more affordable for Vermonters (paid family leave, higher minimum wage, more housing options, making higher-education more accessible to more Vermont high school graduates), insist on expanding broadband throughout the state, all while also intent on growing Vermont’s economy. While Holcombe has made a big issue out of Zuckerman’s vote in 2015 in which he defended an amendment of a bill to maintain a philosophical exemption to getting a child vaccinated, Zuckerman makes a good case that he is not anti-science and that he supports vaccination for children across the board. It should not be the defining issue that some have tried to make it out to be.
Rather, the distinction between the two is their larger political perspective. Holcombe would press a liberal vision with a moderate approach to getting it done. In a telling comment in a recent interview, Zuckerman maintains that the difference between a liberal and a progressive is that Progressives aren’t afraid to fund the visions they advocate. It’s a provocative statement that has a double-edge blade — true enough that liberals often promote progressive agendas but then fall short of adequately funding them; but funding them inevitably means raising taxes on those with the means to pay them.
It is, in short, an intriguing race that demands voters’ attention and participation.
Other candidates in the Democratic primary — former postal worker and political activist Ralph Corbo of Wallingford and Pat Winburn, a trial lawyer from Bennington — offer interest to the campaign, but are not expected to pose a serious challenge to the party’s two better known front-runners. Two Progressives are also staging a run-off.
On the Republican side of the ledger, incumbent Gov. Phil Scott will be a shoe-in to represent the Republican Party, even as four others are challenging him for the party’s nomination.
LIEUTENTANT GOV. RACE
On the Republican ticket, former gubernatorial candidate and businessman Scott Milne is the best known of the five Republicans seeking the party’s nomination. Of his challengers, Manchester newcomer Meg Hansen is an articulate candidate who has captured some interest, but it’s Milne’s race to lose.
In the Democratic race, Assistant Vt. Attorney General Molly Gray, 36, who has been described as the “fresh, new face” in the party with a background in farming, has captured a lot of attention in the race against Senate President pro tempore Tim Ashe.
While Ashe has earned the political chops to move up what some might think of as the political ladder to the state’s second highest post, Gray is giving him a serious run. Two other candidates — Williston Democrat Debbie Ingram, a state senator, and Newfane Democrat Brenda Siegel — offer legitimate challenges, and in a primary with four viable challengers, the outcome could be determined by a few votes.
That makes voting in this year’s primary all the more important. Be a patriot, be a responsible citizen, be a Vermonter who cares: if you didn’t already mail in your ballot, vote this Tuesday.
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