As Primary Looms, Dems Running For Lt. Gov. Try To Stand Out In Competitive Field
The three Democrats vying for their party’s nomination for lieutenant governor share a lot in common when it comes to policy and politics.
But Burlington Rep. Kesha Ram, Chittenden County Sen. David Zuckerman and House Speaker Shap Smith each say they bring unique strengths to this competitive primary field.
All three candidates are experienced lawmakers. And each is looking to use their Statehouse experience as a springboard to higher office.
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But in a debate on VPR’s Vermont Edition on Monday, Ram, Smith and Zuckerman sought to distinguish themselves from the rest of the three-way field.
Burlington Rep. Kesha Ram
“I grew up in the Indian-immigrant father and Jewish American mother’s Irish pub, sweeping peanut shells off the floor and putting in a hard day’s work,” said Ram, a four-term state representative from Burlington.
As a multi-racial, female candidate from the millennial generation, Ram says she brings a worldview lacking among other statewide officeholders in Vermont.
"I've been fighting for Vermont families to have the same opportunity from day one. Those are the issues I care about. I want to put families and children first." — Burlington Rep. Kesha Ram
After her parents divorced and the family business cratered, Ram says she learned firsthand what it’s like to live under constant financial duress.
She says the experience made her appreciate how hard it can be to overcome that kind of adversity.
“And I’ve been fighting for Vermont families to have the same opportunity from day one,” Ram said. “Those are the issues I care about. I want to put families and children first.”
House Speaker Shap Smith
Smith said he’s the only candidate in the field with top-level legislative leadership experience, and he said he’s demonstrated he knows how to leverage positions of authority.
Smith says he’s “somebody who can get things like minimum wage, paid sick leave, marriage equality, death with dignity across the finish line, somebody who can bring people together.”
"Chittenden County is critically important to us, but we also need to make sure everywhere else in the state is doing well as well." — House Speaker Shap Smith
As the only candidate who resides outside the state’s most populous county, Smith, of Morristown, said he brings an appreciation for the needs of more rural areas of Vermont.
“Chittenden County is critically important to us, but we also need to make sure everywhere else in the state is doing well as well,” Smith said.
Chittenden County Sen. David Zuckerman
Zuckerman said he alone among the field owns and operates a business. He said running his organic farm has given him insights into the hurdles business owners face in Vermont.
“Also as a farmer, I know folks’ issues all across the state, in terms of a hard day’s work, trying to produce a product and selling that product and making a living,” Zuckerman said.
"As a farmer, I know folks' issues all across the state, in terms of a hard day's work, trying to produce a product and selling that product and making a living." — Chittenden County Sen. David Zuckerman
Zuckerman said on issues like labeling for genetically modified foods and marijuana legalization, he’s shown a willingness to use his decades of political experience to advance controversial issues.
“And so if you’re looking for experience, and bold ideas on the issues … I would seek your support,” Zuckerman said.
The winner of the primary will face Republican Randy Brock in the general election. Brock has been an outspoken critic of health care reforms undertaken by the Shumlin administration, including the push for single-payer health care.
All three Democratic candidates said on Monday that they’d continue to push for public financing for at least portions of the state’s health care system.