Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a Progressive/Democrat, plans to challenge Republican Gov. Phil Scott for Vermont's top job, according to a person with direct knowledge of Zuckerman's plans.
VTDigger.org first reported earlier Tuesday that the longtime state legislator, two-term lieutenant governor and organic farmer from Hinesburg would run for governor.
At a meeting of the Chittenden County Democrat Committee on Monday evening, Zuckerman's representative to the committee, Ed Cafferty, told members that the LG would seek the job and announce before the end of the month, according to Democratic National Committee member Tim Jerman. Cafferty declined to comment on Tuesday.
Zuckerman himself would only say that he would be making an announcement next week about his electoral intentions. "I'm going to be letting people know whether I'm going to run for reelection or run for governor or, actually, potentially, not run, given 23 years of service," he said.
Zuckerman did make clear what would animate any 2020 candidacy. "Right now I think a lot of folks are frustrated by the lack of progress, particularly around climate change legislation, around our rural economy," he said.
Asked how he would describe Scott's job performance, Zuckerman said he would rather focus on the opening days of the legislative session and the governor's upcoming State of the State address. "That's one of the reasons I was going to wait until next week to make any kind of announcement," he said.
Zuckerman's closest allies in the state legislature largely declined to comment on his plans Tuesday at the Statehouse. Sen. Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington), who also chairs the Vermont Progressive Party, said he did not know whether Zuckerman would run and hadn't discussed the matter with him. "If I did talk to him about it, then I'd have to answer questions about it," Pollina said with a laugh as he sat in the antechamber of Zuckerman's office.
But Pollina, himself a former gubernatorial candidate, said that if Zuckerman did run, "He'd make a good candidate. He's run statewide a couple times, so he's got the [name] recognition and the network with people."
Zuckerman, an acolyte of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), would also likely draw formidable support from the presidential candidate, as he has in the past.
Rep. Brian Cina (P/D-Burlington) said he, too, lacked inside knowledge of Zuckerman's intentions, but he was enthusiastic at the prospect of a run. "I think he'd be a great governor," Cina said. "Right now we need strong leadership and a strong economy that works for people and for the environment."
Zuckerman would be the second candidate to seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Former education secretary Rebecca Holcombe announced last July that she'd challenge Scott.
"I welcome David Zuckerman to the race," she said in a written statement, "and I'm excited to have his help in calling out the ways in which the Scott Administration has failed to protect the vulnerable, make Vermont affordable, or create a sustainable and equitable economy that does not destroy our environment."
Scott, a two-term governor and former state senator, has not said whether he'll seek a third term.
"The Governor is just entering the second half of his term and remains solely focused on his goal to improve the lives of Vermonters by growing the economy, making Vermont more affordable and protecting the most vulnerable," spokesperson Rebecca Kelley said.