Op/Ed

Editorial: Molly Gray for lieutenant governor

As Vermonters consider which candidates will move Vermont forward over the next decade, the most crucial issues revolve around the state’s demographic challenges. We need leaders to not only stem the flow of young Vermonters leaving the state, but who know how to use Vermont’s inherent assets to attract a new cohort of young entrepreneurs, families and remote worker
In the race for lieutenant governor, Democrat Molly Gray has the positive energy, passion, direct answers, and the work ethic to tackle the issues head-on. 
Key to retaining and attracting new residents is extending and strengthening Vermont’s broadband infrastructure. Throughout her campaign, Gray has emphasized the importance high-speed Internet plays in the workplace, the ability to work remotely from home, telemedicine, and remote learning. She has stressed that the lack of such progress undermines hundreds of communities across rural Vermont. To make the progress the state desperately needs on this issue, Vermont would be well-served by Gray’s intensity and focus on the issue, along with her ability to work closely with Vermont’s Democratic delegation and a potential Joe Biden administration for the necessary funds to make a significant difference in the not-too-distant future.
By making broadband expansion one of her keystone issues, Gray earns the vote of rural residents throughout the state. She would be rural Vermont’s most passionate advocate. 
But that’s just the building block in Gray’s larger campaign to put Vermont on the way to a more vibrant economy. She also understands the necessity of having a quality and affordable childcare system; she understands the need to invest in higher education and find pathways so Vermont’s high school graduates can continue their training without piling up years of college debt; she knows workforce training in collaboration with Vermont businesses must be a larger part of Vermont’s higher-education focus.
Through her diverse background and work on her family’s fruit and vegetable farm in Newbury, Vt., Gray inherently understands the collaborative nature of the new economy and the potential it has for Vermont. She advocates creating a “workforce pipeline” from the state’s high schools “through to our technical schools and colleges on to the workforce.” She actively supports and would incentivize “efforts to ensure livable wages, paid family and medical leave, childcare assistance, student debt repayment, professional development and family healthcare.” She understands Vermont’s unique farm-to-plate industry and its potential to grow, as well as the specialty and value-added food-related markets that can strengthen Vermont’s farm economy.
She understands the challenges farmers face and would be an advocate on their behalf.
She would also boost the renewable energy sector, particularly in solar energy jobs which have been decimated under Gov. Phil Scott’s administration with the curtailment of community solar projects. On that issue she states in bold terms: “As Lieutenant Governor, I will work to incentivize investment in renewable energy programs that are equitable, transparent and good for our economy and support policies to make investment possible, including the Global Warming Solutions Act and the Transportation Climate Initiative.” Like many of her generation, she understands the immediate threat of global warming and advocates a no-nonsense approach to solving the problem today, not shunting that responsibility onto the next generation.
On the issue of a woman’s right to choose, her clarity and straightforward response is refreshing: “I support every Vermonter’s right to choose or to refuse contraception, pregnancy, or parenthood. Every Vermonter should be able to choose the course of their life.” Her Republican opponent, Scott Milne, would not commit to supporting a state law that would enshrine a woman’s right to choose — an important issue if a future U.S. Supreme Court undermines the principles of Roe v. Wade.
Gray also understands the need to upgrade care for Vermont’s elders. “We have heard and understand Vermont’s demographic challenges as they relate to the workforce, but I also care about our aging population as it relates to our ability to care for each other. Vermonters deserve our every resource as they look to age in dignity and good health.” 
It’s an issue that is under-reported by the state’s media and too often ignored by Vermont’s Legislature. Gray would bring the issue to the fore and help lead an overdue discussion on possible solutions.
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While Gray has tried to focus on substantive issues that will shape Vermont’s future, Milne’s campaign has done the opposite — waging, instead, what some have called one of the “nastiest, negative campaigns” in recent history, and somewhat akin to President Trump’s tactics. Rather than address matters affecting the state, Milne’s campaign has focused on Gray’s residency requirements. Most recently, Milne criticized Gray’s PAC contributions, which derive mainly from small contributors, while Milne has drawn over $200,000 in aid from the Republican Party, big tobacco, the ultra-conservative Koch brothers, while also self-funding more than $140,000 —a significant part of his campaign’s total contributions. While Milne says he won’t vote for Trump, he’s happy to take the money and, he said, be associated with those Republican causes. 
Milne’s campaign tactics speak volumes about the campaign’s integrity, which is largely a rehash of previous party positions with few original ideas.
We don’t doubt Milne’s sincerity as a candidate, but we do fault him for waging a campaign that seeks to focus on the equivalent of Obama’s birther conspiracy, rather than focus on ideas that would help Vermont thrive in the new economy of tomorrow. And we’re disappointed that Milne’s campaign is filled with the same old, tired conservative tropes that have long been discredited. 
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On the other hand, Molly Gray is the voice of Vermont’s future. She has the energy and integrity, grit and resolve to engage a new generation of Vermonters in their march for a more adaptable and prosperous economy. 
She is also a natural unifier. Throughout her campaign, she has sought to bring all sides together to strengthen the state and while she believes in investing in the state’s priorities, she’s careful to point out Vermont’s finite spending capacity and hone her policies to those the state can afford. 
One other quality of Gray’s candidacy stands out— she’s a woman. Republican Lt. Gov. Barbara Snelling was the last time a woman was elected to either of the state’s two highest offices, when she served from 1993-97, and even longer since Madeleine Kunin was governor from 1985-91. If elected, Gray would be only the fourth woman to be elected to the position of lieutenant governor, something that should motivate anyone interested in balancing the political equation.
More importantly, the challenges the state faces in the next decade will require bold and creative leadership. They will require an unabashed passion for the state, energetic optimism and a commitment to progress regardless of the difficulty. Gray embraces those very qualities — as well as the ability to collaborate, to inspire, and to bring together Vermont’s best talent to make Vermont one of the most desirable states in which to live and prosper. For the betterment of Vermont, we endorse Democrat Molly Gray for lieutenant governor. 
Angelo Lynn

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