Democratic lieutenant gubernatorial nominee Molly Gray received a boost on Wednesday when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) endorsed her campaign, calling her a bold leader who “understands the challenges facing working families” who would “put people and justice before politics.”
But the high was somewhat tempered Friday when one of the nation’s other leading progressive politicians, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), sent out an email recapping some of his own home state endorsements. The list named three dozen people, from legislative candidates to every single Democratic or Progressive statewide office seeker — that is, except Gray.
“These races are incredibly important — that's why we've put together a list of progressive, Bernie-endorsed candidates in your area,” read the email Sanders' campaign sent out on Friday morning. “If you can, we hope you'll cast your ballot for them when you vote in Vermont."
To be sure, Gray, who is running against Republican businessman Scott Milne, does not have the same ties to Sanders as she does Vermont's two other federal leaders.
She interned for Sen. Patrick Leahy's (D-Vt.) while she was a University of Vermont student and went on to work for Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), first on his 2006 campaign and later in Washington, D.C. Both men have endorsed her campaign.
She also has not tried to portray herself as a Sanders surrogate in the same way some other Vermont candidates have. Though her platform calls for investments in childcare, higher education, broadband expansion and paid family leave, she falls short of some of Sanders' most progressive policies, striking a more moderate tone at times. She even touts support from some former Republican officials, including former U.S. representative Peter Smith, who lost his seat to Sanders in 1990.
And Sanders has lent limited support to Gray's campaign, appearing on a soon-to-be distributed Vermont Democratic Party mailer alongside Leahy that asks voters to support all statewide Democratic candidates — including Gray.
Still, his continued silence on Gray's candidacy, in light of Warren's endorsement, would appear to be a clear snub of a rising Democratic star in his home state. Sanders' press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Regardless of his reasoning, Sanders' decision to leave Gray off his endorsement list has given her political rival ammunition heading into the final weeks of the campaign. Almost immediately after Sanders' email was sent out, Milne campaign manager state Sen. Corey Parent (R-Franklin) forwarded it in an email and asked "Where is Molly?"
“Another prominent Vermont Dem/Prog not endorsing Molly Gray," Parent wrote.
The Milne campaign took the same tack earlier this week when Gray announced that she had been endorsed by 16 Democratic and Progressive state senators.
Some of those senators — including Democratic Majority Leader Becca Balint (D-Windham) — gathered on the Statehouse lawn Monday morning to heap praise onto the nominee. But while Gray's campaign tried to use the event as a show of strength heading into the final weeks of the race, Milne's camp held up a different lens.
“It is revealing that, with less than a month before Election Day and with votes already being cast, Molly Gray still has not consolidated the support of leaders within her own party," Milne's press secretary, Mike Donohue, wrote in a press release on Monday, referring to how the 16 endorsements only represent two-thirds of the non-Republican Senate caucus.
Gray's campaign, meantime, has repeatedly tried to contrast her fundraising tactics with Milne's to show that she maintains broader grassroots support. In a press release last week, Gray's campaign noted that she has received contributions from more than 1,600 people since declaring her candidacy back in January compared to the less than 500 people who have financially supported Milne's campaign.
"I'm so proud to have earned support from every corner of this state and across party lines," Gray said in a statement to Seven Days in response to questions about not securing Sanders' endorsement. "My commitment as we move forward is to continue to work every day to earn the support of my fellow Vermonters."
Correction, October 9, 2020: An earlier version of this story misstated when Molly Gray interned for Sen. Leahy.