It's Official: Zuckerman Challenges Scott for Governor of Vermont | Off Message

It's Official: Zuckerman Challenges Scott for Governor of Vermont


David Zuckerman announcing his candidacy for governor - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • David Zuckerman announcing his candidacy for governor
Updated 1:30 p.m.

After a week of playing coy, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman has officially confirmed that he will run for governor.

The Progressive/Democrat formally declared his candidacy for Vermont's top office during a Monday morning press conference at the Capitol Plaza Hotel.

“Through the years, I have listened to many Vermonters as they have shared their economic struggles, and I’ve observed well-intentioned leaders trying to find solutions,” Zuckerman said. “But these last three years, we have not seen the vision or action that Vermonters need.”

Zuckerman is the second candidate to announce for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, joining former education secretary Rebecca Holcombe. He said he will also run a write-in campaign for the Progressive nomination. Republican Gov. Phil Scott, in his second term, has yet to announce whether he will seek reelection.

Holcombe’s campaign made its own splash on Monday, releasing a list of endorsements featuring 15 legislators and political leaders, including former leaders of the Vermont Democratic Party.

“Scott and Zuckerman are both longtime politicians. That leaves us with the same people, saying the same things,” said former Vermont Democratic Party chair Dottie Deans, according to a campaign press release. “Rebecca offers a different perspective as an educator and a mother, and she has strong executive experience."

Zuckerman on Monday underscored his two decades of public service, which includes 18 years as a state legislator. But he sought to distance himself from “government as usual,” criticizing the governor for failing to raise the minimum wage or enact meaningful climate change legislation.

“Where's the improvement? Where’s that struggling being realized and really taken to heart — by boosting folks’ incomes and economic well-being? There’s going to be a huge wave of energy that has been building for years,” Zuckerman said, explaining why he believes he has a chance to beat Scott, a highly popular incumbent.

"Folks are frustrated," Zuckerman continued.

On Monday, Zuckerman laid out several key issues he plans to push: building more affordable housing, expanding health care access while “bringing costs under control” and fighting climate change in a way that “builds economic opportunity.” He also said he wants to invest in public transportation and expand broadband coverage.

As for how he plans to pay for some of these initiatives, Zuckerman said the state could implement a surcharge on its richest residents.

Zuckerman said he has hired two campaign staffers so far and expects to bring on more in the spring, when he plans to hold a larger campaign kickoff. Until then, his focus will remain on leading Senate proceedings, as is his duty as lieutenant governor, he said.

The campaign marks Zuckerman's third statewide race. He was elected lieutenant governor in 2016, making him only the second Progressive in Vermont history to hold statewide office. He easily won reelection two years later, and has been flirting with a potential gubernatorial run for months now.

After news reports surfaced last week — first from and later confirmed by Seven Days — indicating that Zuckerman indeed planned to run, he repeatedly declined to share his plans, only confirming that he would be announcing his decision at Monday's presser.

His campaign’s media blitz began about 12 hours early, however, with his website spilling the beans late Sunday night that he would indeed challenge Scott. A press release from his campaign at 6:30 a.m. Monday confirmed that Zuckerman would declare his candidacy. Thirty minutes later, the candidate appeared on Vermont Public Radio to — yet again — announce his plans.

On Monday, Zuckerman cited his family and his organic farming business and said choosing to run was not an easy decision. But "in the end, the urgency of our challenges, the opportunity to serve, and to lead, and to do great things with the people of this state, was clear."

Clarification, January 14, 2020: Zuckerman is advocating for a short-term marginal income tax for the wealthy, and not a "wealth tax" on assets. This story has been updated.

Paul Heintz contributed reporting.