David Zuckerman on his win for lieutenant governor
David Zuckerman will be the second person in state history to serve non-consecutive terms as lieutenant governor. He first served under Gov. Phil Scott in 2018, and left to run against Scott in the 2020 gubernatorial election.
This year, Zuckerman defeated his Republican opponent, Joe Benning, by a margin of 54% to 43%, according to the Associated Press.
Vermont Public's Mikaela Lefrak spoke with Zuckerman the day after the election. Their interview is below and has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Mikaela Lefrak: So this will be your second stint as lieutenant governor. How does it feel today?
David Zuckerman: Good, although a tired, early morning to let the chickens out. But generally it feels good. The results across the state were quite good in general. And, frankly, as someone — and I know a lot of Vermonters who were looking at what was happening nationwide — I guess the victory is that, it wasn't as bad as I thought and many thought it would have been.
As you just mentioned, you're a farmer as well as a politician, you've been a staple at the Burlington Farmers Market. Are you still going to keep up those appearances now that you're lieutenant governor again?
Well, we have three winter markets here in November and December, we're certainly going to do those. There's no winter market in Burlington beyond that. But certainly my spouse and I are going to sit down and really talk about what's possible next year with the farm, what crew is returning and whether we've got the staff to make it possible. Because they're both full-time jobs. And as I've gotten older, it's a little harder to do both.
Now, the lieutenant governor position is largely ceremonial: You'll be presiding over the state Senate, casting tiebreaker votes if necessary. But still, it's a highly visible role in the state, and it gives you all these resources to get out across Vermont and talk to constituents. So what do you plan on making of the role this time around?
To be clear, it doesn't give a lot of resources to get around other than time. There's not a lot of budget for that. But I do plan, as I have in the past, to really engage citizens across the state through social media, through direct visits around the state — meetings in coffee shops and town halls and so forth, to again, bring more people into the process.
We have great voter participation, we have a lot of folks around the state who do contact their legislators. But there's always the opportunity for more, to bring citizen expertise to the process. And I'll do a lot of that. I think there's a lot of folks that are still left out. We had great voter turnout. But, again, 35%, 40%, 45% of Vermonters didn't vote. Folks still feel disengaged. They're struggling to just make ends meet. And I think it's important to go out to them.
"There's a lot of folks that are still left out. We had great voter turnout. But, again, 35%, 40%, 45% of Vermonters didn't vote. Folks still feel disengaged. They're struggling to just make ends meet."David Zuckerman
Speaking of that outreach and engagement, I'm curious about your plans for your relationship with Gov. Scott. Throughout the campaign, some critics pointed to the fact that you didn't always have the best working relationship with Gov. Scott, when you previously served as his lieutenant governor, and you left that team to run against him in the 2020 gubernatorial election. How do you plan to approach or strengthen that relationship going forward?
When I ran against him, I pointed out that it was his decision not to work together. And I'd be more than happy if he was interested in working together, finding areas of common ground. When I broached this with him back a few years ago, I said, "We have huge bureaucracy in government, human services, education are spending $3.5 billion of taxpayer money. Is there a way to really dig in and see if we can do that work more efficiently?"
That to me doesn't seem like a right-wing issue or a left-wing issue, but a good governance issue. So if the governor is interested in working together, I'm ready to work with him. And I think legislative leadership is ready to work with him. It's a multi-way street to make that happen. If that's not his inclination, I'll work with citizens to work on the issues and see what we can get done in other ways. It's really, whatever way possible to make progress in how I come to the table.
Lastly, you beat out Republican Joe Benning, a state senator from Caledonia with [54% of the vote to his 43%]. That's tighter than many of the other big ticket races. So what would you say now to all the voters who might be listening who voted for Benning?
I have great respect for the different opinions people have all across the state. I will say that I had an opponent who had a lot of legislative experience. I don't think that was the case with any of the other opposition folks that lost on the other side of the aisle.
He brought a lot to the table. He's a respectful guy, I respect him quite a bit. And his voters, they are welcome to come talk to me. I think I have a strong reputation for welcoming folks, whether they agree with me or disagree with me, so we can find areas of agreement, take pieces of their ideas that might make something they don't like, better, that I might be advocating for.
My door will truly always be open. I know folks say that. But if you asked folks around the building, and around the state, you know that my office was open. I had an open coffee hour every week. I'm going to get around the state to bring people in. Folks that disagree with me have said, "I don't agree with him on anything, but he'll always listen." And I appreciate that's what people think. And I hope they continue that effort so at least we have those conversations.