Gray, Milne wrangle over super-PAC support in second LG debate

Molly Gray and Scott Milne
Democrat Molly Gray, left, and Republican Scott Milne are facing off for the Vermont lieutenant governor’s office this year. Photos by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

Just a day removed from Republican Scott Milne’s criticism of a super PAC that backs her, Democrat Molly Gray returned the favor during a lieutenant governor’s debate Tuesday, calling out Milne for receiving the backing from a GOP political action committee that has ties to Koch Industries and other top Republican donors.

During the second lieutenant governor’s debate in as many weeks, Gray and Milne took part in an hour of heated discussions trained primarily on their voting histories, groups that are supporting them, tax policy and candidates they will be supporting in the upcoming election.

Gray went on the attack early during the VPR-Vermont PBS debate, questioning Milne about a recent $200,000 advertisement buy made by the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). The organization, set up to help Republicans win control of state legislatures, is supporting his candidacy.

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“This week, a dark money group, including the Koch brothers, the NRA, Big Tobacco — all of Trump’s biggest supporters — have launched a $200,000 media campaign to defeat me,” Gray said. 

“Will you take this opportunity to denounce this money and ask these groups to cease and desist their efforts?” she added.

Milne responded that he is glad that the RSLC has decided to wade into Vermont’s lieutenant governor’s race, before shifting focus away from the Republican super PAC and towards the Alliance for a Better Vermont Action Fund — which backs Gray.

“I’m happy that the Republican State Leadership Committee came in with money,” Milne said. “As you know they only do this for people that they think are going to win.”

“The bigger issue to me is you’ve got a PAC formed in the last two weeks by your legal advisers and your friends who are spreading disinformation and able to raise money and specifically target me,” he said.

Milne was referring to the Alliance for a Better Vermont, a political action committee headed by Ashley Moore, previously the director of Main Street Alliance of Vermont. On Friday, it posted screenshots on Twitter and in a press release about Milne’s electronic voting record in his town of residence, Pomfret.

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The file indicated that Milne did not vote in the primaries for 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2018, while also indicating that he missed the general election in 2010.

Moore, the director of Alliance for a Better Vermont, wrote a press release Friday stating that Milne had misled the public about his voting history during the Tuesday VTDigger debate in which he criticized Gray’s failure to vote in four election cycles between 2008 and 2018.

“Taking the opportunity to lie about his own record in an attempt to disparage a candidate is appalling and Vermonters deserve better,” Moore said in her Friday statement.

The Milne campaign responded Monday with an email from the Pomfret town clerk that said, according to paper records, Milne did vote in the 2010 primary and general election, as well as the 2012 presidential and state primaries. Milne did however fail to vote in the 2018 primary when he returned an absentee ballot after it could be counted.

On Tuesday, Gray responded to Milne’s claim that the organization was started by her advisers and allies, by saying that she doesn’t “know anything about the PAC.”

Both candidates also expressed their views on Proposal 5, the constitutional amendment that enshrines an individual’s right to reproductive health choice, in the state’s founding document. While the House and the Senate both passed the amendment in 2019, both bodies are required to again vote on the constitutional change in the 2021-22 legislative biennium. 

If both the Senate and the House approve the measure once more, the amendment would be submitted for voter approval.

Gray said that she unequivocally supports the constitutional change, while Milne would not say one way or the other whether he supports the amendment.

“It lets Vermonters weigh in at the ballot box on a very important issue,” Milne said.

Democrat Molly Gray, right, and Republican Scott Milne participate in a lieutenant governor’s candidate debate sponsored by VTDigger last week. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Last week’s debate was dominated by a back-and-forth over Gray’s spotty voting history — she failed to cast a ballot in four election cycles between 2008 and 2018 — which has drawn criticism from Vermonters across the political spectrum since it became public knowledge during the primary campaign. 

During that forum, Gray inaccurately claimed that she had voted for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016.

During the VPR-Vermont PBS debate, Milne said that he had not voted for President Donald Trump in 2016 and that he would be writing in former Gov. Jim Douglas for president in 2020 while also voting for Gov. Phil Scott for governor. He then asked Gray whom she would be voting for in the gubernatorial contest.

Gray appeared reluctant to say the name of Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, who heads the Democratic ticket for governor.

“I’ll be voting for the Democratic ticket and that starts at the top of the ticket with Joe Biden and putting a Democrat in the White House,” Gray said, before asking Milne if he would be voting for Biden as well. 

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“I appreciate your tenacity, Molly,” Milne said. “I get to ask a question, you’re not telling us whether you’re voting for Phil Scott or David Zuckerman.”

Later on, in the waning moments of the debate, moderator Bob Kinzel asked Milne and Gray to clarify their positions on the matter of whom they will be supporting in 2020.

Milne said he would not be voting for Biden, while Gray again said she would be “supporting the Democratic ticket.” Kinzel then pointedly asked if she would be voting for the Democratic nominee for governor.

“So you are voting for David Zuckerman?” Milne asked.

“Yes,” Gray responded.

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Kit Norton

About Kit

Kit Norton is the general assignment reporter at VTDigger. He is originally from eastern Vermont and graduated from Emerson College in 2017 with a degree in journalism. In 2016, he was a recipient of The Society of Environmental Journalists' Emerging Environmental Journalist award. Kit has worked at PRI's weekly radio environmental program, Living on Earth, and has written for the online news site Truthout.

Email: [email protected]

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