Lisman Declines to Challenge Shumlin for Governor | Off Message

Lisman Declines to Challenge Shumlin for Governor


Bruce Lisman - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Bruce Lisman
After months of deliberation, Campaign for Vermont founder Bruce Lisman said Wednesday he's decided against challenging Gov. Peter Shumlin this fall. 

The Shelburne resident and retired Bear Stearns executive said that while he "did give it careful consideration," he came to the conclusion that a bid for public office would detract from the mission of his nonprofit political advocacy group.

"I was concerned that a candidacy would undermine the nonpartisan nature of Campaign for Vermont," Lisman said. "Instead of highlighting good ideas and solutions to problems we recognized, it would instead obscure them."

Since founding CFV in 2011 and investing more than a million dollars in the organization, Lisman has been seen as a possible political contender. He said Wednesday he had spoken to "a large number of groups" over the past few months about the possibility of challenging Shumlin.

"I did take seriously those people who asked me to run and did give it considerable thought, and learned a considerable amount about the political process along the way," he said. "Some wanted to have, if you will, a performance evaluation of the governor through my candidacy."

While Lisman declined to weigh in on Shumlin's job performance Wednesday, he indicated that he hopes to see a competitive race.

"People should have a chance to say what they think of his ideas," Lisman said of the Democratic incumbent. 

Thus far, only perennial candidate Emily Peyton has announced plans to seek the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe) and 2010 Republican nominee Brian Dubie have said they won't run. Pomfret businessman Scott Milne and 2012 Republican nominee Randy Brock are both considering entering the race. The Vermont Progressive Party has indicated it won't field a serious candidate.

Brock said Wednesday he is "close to reaching a conclusion" about whether he might run and had been in touch with Lisman in recent days about their potential candidacies. In praising Lisman, Brock suggested he might pursue similar goals as a candidate.

"Bruce is to be commended for everything he's done with Campaign for Vermont. I think he's raised a lot of issues that he and the folks with him have approached in a thoughtful and creative way," Brock said. "I should say that most of the things they've said are very much aligned with my way of thinking."

Lisman said he made his decision roughly two weeks ago, but decided to announce the news via press release Wednesday in order to put to rest rampant speculation.

"I was spurred to put something out because people were calling, wanting to meet with me," he said. "The media were beginning to report it as, I don't know, if not a fact, but a fact of the political discussion. And I thought it was detracting from really what I like to do, so I thought I should put an end to it."

Just because Lisman won't be a candidate in 2014 doesn't mean he won't be involved in the race.

"I think Campaign for Vermont could play a role in it. We were careful in the last election cycle not to be too personal in introducing our ideas," he said. "We want to be careful about avoiding the bright lines that there are. But I think we can offer up some real, good, constructive ideas that would helpfully tell the people who would vote that there are better ways of doing things."

Lisman declined to say whether that means CFV will resume its advertising campaigns or endorse a particular candidate. He said he has yet to decide whether he will personally financially support any candidates.

As for whether Lisman would make a run for public office down the road, he said, "I don't know. I haven't ruled it out, but I'm not thinking about it."

Nor would he speculate about whether he could have beaten Shumlin had he entered the race.

"I don't know," he said. "Who knows? We'll never know."