GOP ends up with three in primary
By Neal P. Goswami
VERMONT PRESS BUREAU | June 13,2014
MONTPELIER — Weeks of electoral intrigue ended Thursday when Republican newcomer Scott Milne announced he will challenge Gov. Peter Shumlin, and House Speaker Shap Smith filed his petition to seek re-election.
Both decisions, made public ahead of Thursday evening’s deadline for candidates to file for the fall election, were the biggest remaining questions among the state’s political class.
Milne, the president of his family’s business, Milne Travel, had been considering a run for several weeks. He stated publicly that he wanted a Republican primary to help boost the GOP’s message ahead of the general election against Shumlin, a two-term Democrat who is seeking a third term. Shumlin has said he will not engage in campaigning until Labor Day.
But one by one, potential Republican challengers, including Stowe Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, former Wall Street executive Bruce Lisman and former state officeholder Randy Brock, withdrew from consideration. Brock, who has been Vermont’s auditor and a state senator, was the last to decline a bid last weekend.
However, Milne will still have a primary. The secretary of state’s office confirmed Thursday that Steve Berry, of Wolcott, also filed a petition to run for governor as a Republican. Perennial candidate Emily Peyton has also filed as a Republican, although the state GOP has said it does not support her.
Milne announced his decision Thursday morning on WDEV radio’s “The Mark Johnson Show.” He said Shumlin’s tenure as governor has been “not good” and that Shumlin has shown a lack of leadership.
Milne acknowledged that unseating Shumlin, who has more than $1 million in the bank for his re-election bid, will be difficult.
“I think Gov. Shumlin has been, I think, getting elected pretty much since he was 24 years old. That gives him a lot of assets that I do not have. He knows his way around Montpelier much better than I do. He knows the ins and outs of the technical aspects of legislation much better than I do,” Milne said.
But the incumbent also faces challenges, according to Milne.
“Your filters become more about what you need to do to be more successful politically,” he told Johnson. “I think the folks that are polling the parade so they can jump out in front and pretend they are leading it are not serving the real essence of leadership, which is to tell people what you believe.”
Milne said he hopes to raise and spend about $200,000 for his campaign. That would be significantly lower than the $600,000 Brock spent as the GOP gubernatorial nominee in the last cycle, including $300,000 of his own money.
Asked by Johnson if he had the passion to run for governor, Milne gave a less-than-enthusiastic answer: “I have the ability to do it.”
A host of others will also appear on the November ballot for governor. Independents Chris Ericson and Bernard Peters, as well as Libertarian Dan Feliciano, have filed. Peter Diamondstone filed to run for the Liberty Union Party.
Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott filed Thursday for his own re-election effort and will face Progressive Dean Corren, a former House member from Burlington. Corren has qualified for public financing, allowing him to spend $50,000 of public money during the primary period and an additional $150,000 of public money during the general election.
Democrat John Bauer was planning to challenge Scott but withdrew Thursday afternoon after falling short in his own quest for public financing.
“Despite a strong effort from our volunteer team and our friends, colleagues and allies, we fell short of collecting enough contributions from Vermont voters to qualify for public campaign financing by today’s deadline,” Bauer wrote in his email announcement.
Bauer said he consulted Democratic Party officials before deciding to drop out. Continuing to run would have meant “more time asking for money than having important conversations with Vermonters about the issues,” he said.
Marina Brown will run for lieutenant governor for the Liberty Union Party.
Republicans were unable to field candidates for the remaining statewide offices. Democratic Attorney General William Sorrell will face Liberty Union candidate Rosemarie Jackowski, while Treasurer Beth Pearce, also a Democrat, faces Murray Ngoima, representing the Liberty Union Party, and Progressive Don Schramm.
Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos is being challenged by Progressive Ben Eastman and Liberty Union candidate Mary Alice Hebert.
Progressive/Democratic Auditor Doug Hoffer will run unopposed.
Meanwhile, Smith, of Morrisville, ended weeks of speculation about his future by filing for re-election. He had been consulting with his family about running again and said he made the decision to seek a seventh term “in the last couple of days.”
“My family is supportive of the decision. I had a long conversation with my wife and kids. They’re on board,” he said.
Smith said the lengthy delay in determining that he will run again centered on his passion for the job.
“I really wanted to make sure that I was going to have the energy and enthusiasm to do the job well, and I needed to make sure that I had that within myself and also needed to make sure the people that I really need to be supportive of my being in the House were supportive,” Smith said.
Lawmakers are facing difficult issues in the next biennium, including education reform and a financing plan for Shumlin’s proposed universal, publicly financed health care plan. Smith said he looks forward to helping lead the House as it faces those challenges, noting past challenges he has faced.
“As speaker, I came in in the middle of the Great Recession. That was incredibly challenging. The second term as speaker we had to deal with the fallout from Tropical Storm Irene,” Smith said. “Clearly, we have really challenging issues in front of us in education finance and education reform in general, as well as health care finance and health care reform. But I’m eager to tackle those challenges, and I think they are solvable.”
Smith had been urged both publicly and privately by Shumlin and others to run. Smith’s leadership is seen as crucial to shepherding health care and education reform through the House.
The Legislature’s leadership is unlikely to change with Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell, D-Windsor, also seeking re-election.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, seeking a fourth term, filed his signatures to appear on the November ballot. He will face a challenge from three Republicans — Mark Donka, Donald Russell and Donald Nolte.
Ericson, the independent running for governor, is also on the ballot for the state’s lone seat in the U.S. House alongside independent Randall Meyer. Matthew Andrews is running on the Liberty Union ticket, while Jerry Trudell is running for the Energy Independence Party.