Environmental activist James Ehlers filed Thursday to run for governor in 2018, acknowledging he would face an uphill fight to unseat Republican Gov. Phil Scott.
Ehlers, executive director of Lake Champlain International, a water quality advocacy group, said he would focus his campaign on jobs, environmental protection and health care. He will run as a Democrat. He filed paperwork indicating his candidacy at the secretary of state’s office.
“People need help,” Ehlers told VTDigger.
Ehlers, 48, has been active in the fight to clean up Lake Champlain, which has suffered for decades from pollution primarily from agricultural and commercial sources. Ehlers said if elected he would seek to have corporations “that have profited from cheap dairy prices” help pay for the cleanup. He cited Unilever, the owners of Ben & Jerry’s, and Dean Foods as examples.
Ehlers, who lives in Winooski, has never held public office but said that was not an issue.
“I’m not a politician, and that’s not what people want,” he said. Ehlers said he has managerial experience from his time in the Navy.
Ehlers said he had to start his campaign now because he is not an established politician with high name recognition. He said he would outline clear differences between him and Scott during the campaign.
Scott said Thursday he planned to run again in 2018 but that it was too early to make an announcement.
Ehlers has been executive director of LCI since 1999.