Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Holcombe announced Tuesday that she has hired a new campaign manager.
Cameron Russell, 34, a former state party staffer who managed the Democrats’ unsuccessful bid for the governor's office in 2018, will lead the Holcombe campaign "as it begins to move into a more public phase," Russell wrote in a press release announcing his hire.
Russell is Holcombe's second campaign manager since she announced in July. His predecessor, Kyle Quinn-Quesada, stepped down in November due to an “unexpected health emergency,” Holcombe told Seven Days on Tuesday.
“I’m very pleased that Cam has decided that he wants to join us and help us build a very strong grassroots campaign,” Holcombe said.
The Addison County native has worked on Holcombe's campaign part time for the last several months. He plans to leave his job as an administrative assistant at the University of Vermont next week to begin full time.
Russell takes over a campaign that has so far been notable for its reliance on out-of-state help. He has previous political experience working for the Vermont Democratic Party from 2014 to 2016, and said he expects his time running Christine Hallquist’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign will help him in his new gig.
“It was definitely a sprint, and we raised some money, but we didn’t raise probably as much as we hoped,” Russell said of Hallquist’s run, which she announced in February 2018.
Holcombe, meanwhile, launched her bid seven months earlier in the election cycle and has already shown herself to be a successful fundraiser. The candidate has yet to file a finance report, but Russell claimed she has already raised more than $250,000. He expected she would have an “impressive showing” by the March financial disclosure deadline.
Holcombe remains the only Democratic candidate to declare for next year’s election. Two other prominent Democrats — Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman and Attorney General T.J. Donovan — are considering runs for the party's nomination. Incumbent Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, has yet to announce if he plans to run for reelection.
The Dems recently got an early glimpse at how Donovan and Zuckerman would fare in a showdown with Scott, who remains one of the country’s most popular governors. The party polled Vermonters about who they favor in head-to-head races between the incumbent and the two potential challengers, VTDigger.org reported in October.
The party does not plan to publicize the poll results, communications director Christopher Di Mezzo told Seven Days on Tuesday.
Di Mezzo also declined to elaborate on the poll's specific questions. He said that the party is “prepared for a primary, should one happen," but if not, "Democrats are [still] in a strong position in 2020."
Holcombe confirmed that she knew about the poll but chose not to participate in it. "It wasn’t where we’re at, and it’s not what we’re focused on,” she said.
Instead, Holcombe said she has spent the last five months reaching out to voters so that she can “learn about what’s working and what isn’t working and what they’re hoping that we’ll take on.”
Those conversations have shown her that Scott’s biggest weakness is Vermont's lack of affordability, she said, especially when it comes to housing and health care.
“People are very anxious that they’ve been promised a lot and it hasn’t been delivered,” Holcombe said.
How she plans to address such concerns remains unclear. While a lengthy bio on her campaign website offers banalities about educational investments and a “Vermont that works for every Vermonter,” Holcombe has yet to provide much in the form of a campaign platform. Pressed for one on Tuesday, she said she is looking forward to “putting it together and getting it out” with the help of her new campaign manager.