Scott to ramp up campaigning; Milne attacks Gray’s record on voting

Molly Gray, left, and Scott Milne have each won their party’s primary for lieutenant governor. File photos by Glenn Russell and Erin Mansfield/VTDigger

Gov. Phil Scott barely campaigned at all before this week’s primary election, when he won the Republican nomination for governor. That’s about to change, he said Friday.

When Scott announced in May he would seek a third two-year term, he said he would campaign without fundraising, or hiring staff, so he could focus on responding to the Covid-19 crisis. 

On Friday, Scott said, “Yeah, there’ll be a more active campaign than you saw in the primary,” starting with hiring a campaign staff.

“Have not done anything at this point in time, but that would be the next step,” he said. 

He also said he will debate the Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman.

Scott participated in the debate on Vermont Public Radio in July featuring Republican candidates for governor. But when he announced earlier in the year he would seek reelection, he would not guarantee he would participate in debates. 

According to the latest campaign finance filings, Scott has raised about $100,000 since the last election in 2018. Zuckerman has raised just under $350,000. 

In the lieutenant governor’s race this week, Democratic nominee Molly Gray and Republican nominee Scott Milne started to spar after Gray invited Milne to participate in a series of “community forums” throughout the state. 

“I am aware that in his last two campaigns Scott Milne focused on negative attacks on his opponents. I’m hoping it will be different this time,” Gray said in a statement. 

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“I want to invite Scott Milne to join me in keeping this general election positive, about the issues, and serving the people of Vermont,” she said. 

Gray said the forums would be held in eight communities around the state and would be an opportunity for the candidates “to present their platforms and to take questions from Vermonters.”

In a statement, Milne’s campaign manager, state Sen. Corey Parent, R-Franklin, said Milne looks forward to participating in major broadcast televised debates in front of a statewide audience in the fall in order to maximize viewership and limit person-to-person contact.” 

Parent also said Milne “has always run campaigns based strictly on the issues. In fact, Scott famously nearly defeated Peter Shumlin on the issue of health care.”

Milne came within 2,500 votes of unseating Shumlin in 2014, in part because many Vermonters were upset the incumbent governor failed to come up with a financing plan for a single payer health care system — one of his campaign pledges. Shumlin was also criticized for his gung-ho stance on industrial wind projects.

In that race, Milne ran an attack ad blasting Shumlin’s record on health care and taxes. 

In 2016, when he challenged U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., he focused on attacking the senator’s ethics, particularly his promotion of the fraudulent Jay Peak projects, and ties to special interest groups. Leahy won with 60% of the vote. Milne received 33%. 

In a statement Friday, the Milne campaign attacked Gray over her voting record. Gray did not vote in four Vermont election cycles — 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016 — a fact that also drew criticism from some Democrats during the primary race. 

“Molly and her team have spent the first three days of this general election attacking Scott and staging political gimmicks as a way to distract from her record of failing to vote in the most important elections of our time, including failing to vote against Donald Trump,” the statement said. 

Gray’s campaign manager, Samantha Sheehan, said Milne still has an open invitation to the forums the campaign plans to hold around the state. She declined to comment on Milne’s statement and said Gray was unavailable.    

But writing to Seven Days on Thursday, Sheehan criticized a similar attack the Milne campaign made in a different statement. 

“One of the first public statements from the Milne campaign was not responding to an offer of community-based conversations but a snarky and inaccurate personal attack,” Sheehan said. 

The statement Milne provided to Seven Days falsely claimed that Gray did not vote to elect President Barack Obama in 2008, Sheehan said.

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Xander Landen

About Xander

Xander Landen is VTDigger's political reporter. He previously worked at the Keene Sentinel covering crime, courts and local government. Xander got his start in public radio, writing and producing stories for NPR affiliates including WBUR in Boston and WNYC in New York. While at WNYC, he contributed to an award-winning investigation of how police departments shield misconduct records from the public. He is a graduate of Tufts University and his work has also appeared in PBS NewsHour and The Christian Science Monitor.

Email: [email protected]

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