Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P–Chittenden) kicked off his campaign for lieutenant governor on Thursday, an effort he said he was forced to delay for two months as he assisted in the state’s COVID-19 response.
Ashe, 43, said he has been focused on working with legislative leaders and Gov. Phil Scott to help the state respond to the pandemic.
“In my daily updates to Vermonters, I’ve calmly and honestly tried to explain what’s going on, why decisions have been made and point people to resources they need to get through this,” Ashe said in a Facebook Live announcement from his Burlington home.
Now, with the Democratic primary coming up on August 11, Ashe said he needed to begin explaining to voters what he’s accomplished since first being elected to the Senate in 2008 and why he’s leaving an influential post to seek one some view as largely ceremonial.
“I’m running for lieutenant governor to close the gap between the two Vermonts,” Ashe said.
The position is “uniquely situated” between the legislature and the governor and would allow him to continue advocating for policies to address income inequality in the state, he said.
"As the lieutenant governor, you effectively have the platform of a statewide elected official who members of the public look to to help create the policy direction of the state," Ashe said in an interview.
In his announcement, Ashe described the first Vermont as financially secure, a group of people who may be “knocked down a little” by the pandemic but who have “a quicker path back to their feet.”
“In this second Vermont, thousands of adult full-time minimum-wage workers are condescendingly told that that’s what the market dictates for their efforts, while our society lavishes obscene spoils on others,” Ashe said.
Ashe supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, but so far that goal has been elusive. This year lawmakers were able to move toward it by boosting the minimum wage of $10.96 to $12.55 by 2022, overriding Scott’s veto.
After graduating from the University of Vermont, Ashe in 1999 worked for then-congressman Bernie Sanders in his Burlington office. He later went to work for nonprofit affordable housing provider Cathedral Square.
“While I am my own person with my own beliefs, Bernie has inspired me since the first day I met him,” Ashe said.
In that sense, Ashe is very similar to Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, whose decision to challenge Scott for governor has inspired a number of people to seek the state's No. 2. seat.
In his announcement, Ashe laid out a platform very similar to that of his former boss. He said the state should pursue an economic development strategy that values “people, planet and profits.” He wants to protect Vermonters who need support, such as those with disabilities and mental health issues, and New Americans. And he proposed carbon emission reduction policies that help all Vermonters, not just those who can afford them.
“There is no better way to make a state full of environmentalists than to fight climate change in ways that save regular people money,” he said.
Ashe launched his campaign the same day the field of candidates got a surprise entrant — Republican Scott Milne, who nearly upset then-governor Peter Shumlin in 2014.
Ashe said he had no interest in talking about possible Republican opponents and that he was focusing solely on the upcoming primary.
In addition to Milne, Dana Colson of Sharon, the owner of a welding supply company, and Meg Hansen of Manchester, the owner of a communications firm, are seeking the Republican nomination.
Perennial candidate Cris Ericson is running as a Progressive.
Disclosure: Tim Ashe is the domestic partner of Seven Days publisher and coeditor Paula Routly. Find our conflict-of-interest policy at sevendaysvt.com/disclosure.