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Early Primary Gives Minter And Scott Extra Time To Run General Election Campaigns

Meg Malone; Patti Daniels
VPR file
The early primary gives Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and Sue Minter extra time to run their general election campaigns.

The campaigns of Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Scott and Democratic candidate Sue Minter are now transitioning from their primary election strategy to their plan to win the November election.

While there have been a number of complaints about holding Vermont's primary election on the second Tuesday in August, this early date does give the winning candidates a few extra weeks to run their general election campaigns.

Retired Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis thinks both Scott and Minter have some key challenges facing them in the coming weeks.

Davis says it's very important for Minter to reach out to members of the Progressive Party.

"Will Progressives be enthusiastic about Sue Minter in the fall? An important question in that regard is will Bernie Sanders endorse her? Would Bernie campaign for her? Will he raise money for her? Or is he going to spend his time campaigning for U.S. House and Senate candidates in other states around the country," Davis said.

And Davis says Scott needs to solidify his base with moderate independent voters.

"Scott needs to talk about issues that voters in the center are concerned about," he says. "And I think jobs and the economy and taxes are probably the most important issues there."

"These are not polarizing people. They will not run nasty campaigns. They will not accuse each other of nefarious deeds which you've seen in the Lisman campaign." — Garrison Nelson, UVM political science professor

Davis says another major challenge facing Minter is to clearly separate her campaign from the polices of Gov. Peter Shumlin.

"In many ways Peter Shumlin is the unnamed third person on the ballot this fall," Davis explains. "Because Minter needs to demonstrate independence from Shumlin, she needs to stress that her governorship would be different from simply a continuation of Shumlin's policies and people for another two years."

And Davis says Scott needs to put some distance between his campaign and priorities established by the national Republican Party.

"Keeping as great a distance as possible between the Scott campaign with national Republican campaigns, Donald Trump and issues that Congressional Republicans are talking about," says Davis. "Scott made it clear as early as December of last year that he would not support Trump for president."

This is the first time in 32 years that Vermont has had an open governor's race in a presidential year.

UVM political science professor Garrison Nelson says the election of 2008 serves as a good model for Scott.

That's when President Obama received 67 percent of the vote in Vermont and Republican Gov. Jim Douglas easily won re-election.

"Jim Douglas we know has been a very successful governor," Nelson explains. "So I would have to say that Phil will adopt the sort of Douglas style, which he is very close to it presently, and I think that will stand him in good stead."

And Nelson thinks this is a campaign where Minter and Scott will stick to the issues when debating each other.

"These are not polarizing people. They will not run nasty campaigns," Nelson says. "They will not accuse each other of nefarious deeds which you've seen in the [Bruce] Lisman campaign."

But Nelson says the race could get nasty because the national gubernatorial associations and a number of super PACs are expected to spend millions of dollars on this election making it the most expensive gubernatorial race in Vermont history.

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