MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont’s political season will open this weekend when a former utility official launches her campaign to be the Democratic gubernatorial candidate by emphasizing her plans to boost economic development in rural parts of the state.
Christine Hallquist, 61, of Hyde Park, plans to focus her campaign, which will kick off Sunday, to defeat incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Scott by promoting her background as a business executive.
Hallquist said she supports what she described as common sense gun restrictions. She would go further than gun legislation recently passed by the Legislature and would support an overall ban on assault weapons on Vermont.
But she says she has a vision for the future that Scott lacks.
“It’s kind of crappy management to just take pride in how you manage a budget, because a visionary leader figures out how to get more revenue and food on the table,” Hallquist, a transgender woman, said.
While Scott has not announced his 2018 campaign plans, he is expected to run. A governor spokesman said Scott is “focused on doing the job he was elected to do.” He has made the emphasis of his first term as governor in growing the economy while highlighting a balanced budget without raising taxes or fees.
Environmentalist James Ehlers is also seeking the Democratic nomination in the August primary along with Ethan Sonneborn, the 13-year-old Bristol resident who is taking advantage of the quirk in Vermont law that does not require gubernatorial candidates to be registered voters.
Retired Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis said that for whoever wins the Democratic nomination, defeating a first-term incumbent governor will be difficult. The last time an incumbent governor lost in Vermont was 1962.
While Scott’s decision to support legislative gun restrictions has made him unpopular with parts of his traditional rural base, it’s unclear how that will play out, Davis said. It’s unlikely any other candidate would be able to advocate lifting the just-passed gun restrictions.
“Are the pro-Trump, pro-Second Amendment-type Republicans going to be less than enthusiastic about coming to the polls and voting for Phil Scott in November?” Davis said. “Might some of them just stay home?”
Ehlers, 49, executive director of Lake Champlain International, said he would launch his campaign May 1. He also plans to focus on the economy and he feels most current issues can be traced back to the need for a strong economy.
“I don’t need to meet real Vermonters to understand real Vermonters,” he said. “I have had to live on minimum wage. I have young children in school. We struggle.”
Sonneborn has been campaigning, calling for a sustainable economy and rebuilding infrastructure efforts. He has said he is “running to win.”