Politics

Former Rutland GOP chair launches bid for lieutenant governor

Gregory Thayer critiques Critical Race Theory during a gathering held by Vermonters for Vermont in Rutland on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Gregory Thayer, who previously served as chair of the Rutland City Republican Party, announced Thursday that he will run for lieutenant governor.

Thayer is currently an accountant in private practice and previously served as a Rutland City alderman. Standing on the steps of the Statehouse in Montpelier, Thayer told reporters at a press conference that “the state’s going to change” come November.

“We're doing a lot of things around the state in a ‘conservative’ fashion to make changes, make substantial changes,” he said, making air quotes with his hands when he said “conservative.” “So I predict right here and right now that it's going to be a new outcome in November.”

Behind him billowing in the wind were American, U.S. Marine Corps and Thin Blue Line flags mounted on hockey sticks and held by supporters.

Also gunning for the Republican Party’s nomination in the race is state Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, a longtime legislator and moderate Republican who announced his bid for lieutenant governor earlier this month. From the other side of the aisle, Rep. Charlie Kimbell, D-Woodstock, and nonprofit executive Patricia Preston have thrown their hats in the Democratic ring.

As for what sets him apart from Benning, Thayer pointed to Benning’s years in the state Senate.

“My faults really lie with the progressive leadership, but I would have probably fought some different ways,” he said. “You know, I'm a brutal truth guy. And I would set myself aside from Mr. Benning in that I would have worked harder for my principles and the principles of the Republican Party.”

With incumbent Lt. Gov. Molly Gray vacating her seat to run for Vermont’s lone seat in the U.S. House, the 2022 race for lieutenant governor is wide open.

Thayer told reporters Thursday that he knew he wanted to run for political office this year and even mulled over challenging U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., in his bid for the U.S. Senate. But “the dynamics changed” and he saw an opportunity in the lieutenant governor’s office.

“People tell me, ‘You know, Thayer, this is a ceremonial position. You gavel them in, you gavel them out and that's it,’ ” he said, referring to the lieutenant governor’s role presiding over the Senate. “And that's OK. I'm not going to sit back and just execute that office in that fashion. I'm going to be out there talking and meeting with people and bringing ideas to the body and we'll be heard.”

Thayer has been particularly vocal on the disputed notion that public schools are teaching critical race theory. Vermont school systems maintain that they are not teaching children the academic theory, but state Republican Party leaders have said they are leaning into the messaging after seeing parents engage with it.

In a July commentary penned for the conservative website True North Reports, Thayer said “radicals are now in charge and are going so far as to rewrite our rich American history.”

“Instead of teaching that our great country was founded on the desire to be free and choose one’s own destiny, critical race theory teaches that America was founded on racism and oppression,” Thayer wrote. “This is not about promoting the American Dream for all citizens; it’s about pitting people against each other in a never-ending power struggle.”
Thayer is the founder of the Vermonters for Vermont Initiative, a conservative group with approximately 1,800 followers on Facebook that hosts and advertises events discussing topics like “the horrid, failures of Marxism & Socialism” and Covid vaccinations.

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Sarah Mearhoff

About Sarah

Sarah Mearhoff is one of VTDigger's political reporters, covering the Vermont statehouse, executive branch and congressional delegation. Prior to joining Digger, she covered Minnesota and South Dakota state politics for Forum Communications' newspapers across the Upper Midwest for three years. She has also covered politics in Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, she is a proud alumna of the Pennsylvania State University where she studied journalism.

Email: [email protected]

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