Even if he loses his race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination on Tuesday, Brookfield farmer and attorney John Klar may still wind up on the general election ballot — and serve as a spoiler to GOP Gov. Phil Scott.
Klar and the Vermont Secretary of State's Office confirmed on Monday that he filed paperwork last week to run for governor this fall as an independent. VTDigger.org first reported the news.
Klar said he has not yet decided whether to pursue an independent bid but wanted to retain the right to do so. Independents are required by law to file for public office prior to the primary election. They may withdraw from the race and remove their names from the ballot up to 10 days after the primary.
"No decision has been made," Klar said.
A conservative Republican, Klar has criticized Scott for supporting gun-control measures, signing a bill codifying the right to an abortion and restricting Vermonters' rights during the COVID-19 outbreak. Klar said that one reason to remain in the race would be to support a slate of conservative candidates for the state House and Senate who have aligned themselves with his candidacy.
"We're stirring it up because some of us are a little unhappy with the way Phil Scott and the GOP have been operating for the past few years," he said.
Klar noted that, in a May 22 email he sent Scott and later made public, he raised the possibility of running as an independent if the governor refused to debate him at least three times. "I don’t wish to have public rancor within the GOP more than necessary, and this includes challenging you to a series of debates to address the issues and your record," Klar wrote. "However, if you refuse to agree to this single term, why should I not simply run as an Independent?"
In the same email, though, Klar pledged to stand behind the Republican nominee. "If I lose the GOP primary, I will support you fully through November," he wrote.
Scott did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Though Scott is generally favored to win reelection, his path could be complicated by simultaneous challenges from the left and right. According to Klar, some Republicans would prefer to see Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a Progressive/Democrat, defeat Scott, "because they just feel that they've been neglected." Arguably, Klar said, it would be better for Republicans if a Democrat were to win the governorship.
"Let them own the mess that was created by the left," he said.