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Candidate Conversations: Molly Gray Runs For Lieutenant Governor

Molly Gray holds a microphone
Molly Gray campaign, Courtesy
Democratic candidate for lieutenant lovernor, Molly Gray, speaks to constituents at a September 2020 event.

The lieutenant governor's race has been one of the closest in Vermont's 2020 election. Amid record-setting early voting, the two major party candidates — Democrat Molly Gray and Republican Scott Milne — are making final appeals to undecided Vermonters. This hour, Vermont Edition continues its series of one-on-one interviews with candidates for top offices continues with Democratic nominee Molly Gray. 

Our guest is:

  • Molly Gray, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor

Broadcast live on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

VPR sought interviews with each of the major party candidates running for governor and lieutenant governor. We were able to schedule interviews with Molly Gray (Democrat, Lieutenant Governor) and David Zuckerman (Progressive/Democrat, Governor). Phil Scott (Republican, Governor) was unable to find a date that would work to appear on Vermont Edition and Scott Milne (Republican, Lieutenant Governor) at first accepted, then declined an invitation to appar on the program . Cris Ericson (Progressive, Lieutenant Governor) did not respond to the program's invitation to participate.

The following conversation has been edited, fact-checked and condensed for clarity.

Browse by key issue:

Sexism and Gray’s Campaign

Child Care and Family Initiatives

Funding For Child Care and Broadband

Affordable Housing

Stance On Decriminalizing Sex Work

The Role Of The Lieutenant Governor

Access to Mental Health Services

On Her Residency and Time Working Overseas

Gun Rights and Regulation

Attracting and Retaining Young People

Addressing Climate Change

Public Education And Rural Schools

Sexism and Gray's Campaign

Jane Lindholm: I want to discuss something that has come up as an issue; I think it would be good to tackle it right off the top.

You said in our lieutenant governor primary debate that people questioning your level of experience and readiness for the job don’t do that kind of thing when a man is running for office. That kind of question gets lobbed at women who are asked, “Why don't they run for school board, or a House seat, or something else?”

Male counterparts, including the one currently challenging you for this position, don't get asked those same questions.

More from VPR: A Guide To Voting In Vermont For The 2020 General Election

I want to assume bad faith for a moment – that these continued questions about your lack of previous governmental experience are actually kind of a ruse to avoid electing a young woman. If people, nonetheless, don't want to elect a young woman, if that feeling they have about a lack of experience, even if it's steeped in misogyny or discomfort with a woman in power or ageism or whatever, even if that's what is behind it— How do you get around that feeling and get those people to vote for you in a highly contested race? Voting is sometimes a popularity contest; it's not necessarily a meritocracy. So how do you swing those voters? 

Molly Gray: I've always felt, in particular throughout this campaign, that we have to focus on the issues. We have inadequate access to Broadband, childcare, paid family and medical leave. Our businesses are struggling. We are suffering from a demographics crisis, in addition to the justifiable social unrest nationally and across Vermont – and also a global pandemic.

I look forward to talking about all of that today, but I'll say this: I'm 36-years-old, and some days that does feel a bit young; but most days that feels pretty old. As someone who's worked in Washington for our congressmen, led field missions into Baghdad and to Basra and to Iraq and Africa, worked for the Red Cross, served statewide as an assistant attorney general, clerked for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals for a Vermont judge, bartended through law school, grew up in our state— I feel like I have the experience to not only help us get through this crisis, as someone who's worked in crisis, but also to unify us as a state and help us address some of these challenges.

More from VPR: Four Takeaways From Lt. Governor Major Party Candidate Debate

But I'll say this: Senator Leahy, who has done so much for Vermont, was sent to Washington at the age of 34. He served before that as a Chittenden County State's Attorney, like our awesome Chittenden County State's Attorney, Sarah George, right now. And I've served statewide as an assistant attorney general. I think if we focus on the issues and we really put forward a continued, positive, issue-focused vision for Vermont, Vermonters will do what they've always done, which is: send good people into statewide office to do a lot of good for our state. And that's what I'm here to talk about today. I'm really excited to focus on those issues. 

So do you worry about the gender questions, about the age questions? Do you worry, even if you think that's a distraction, that it could cost you? 

I'm hoping, at this point, that Vermonters listening today and Vermonters in the primary will show that they're not worried about that experience. They know that I have the experience to lead. And I think we're really in a moment — we're seeing that nationally.

In 2018, we elected a record number of women across the state. We're seeing young women like Jacinda [Ardern], in New Zealand, who was just reelected at 40 years old, who has really shown the world what women can do in responding to a pandemic and really shown inclusive, bold leadership. Those are the women I look up to, but I'm really proud to have an incredible team of Vermonters – men and women – supporting this campaign and to have a lot of awesome mentors and advisors from all backgrounds. I know that we will focus on the issues and I'm not worried about it. 

Child Care and Family Initiatives

Jane Lindholm: It was in the Democratic lieutenant governor primary debate in July, here on VPR and Vermont PBS, that you said something to Tim Ashe, who was running at the time and who you beat in the primary. You said you were running because of what you characterized as his failed record around paid family leave, child care initiatives and broadband.

More from VPR: Four Democrats Seek Party’s Nomination For Lieutenant Governor

And that's partly where that whole conversation came up, where he said, ‘Well, why don't you run for a seat in the Legislature?’ And you said, ‘That's a question that men ask of young women running for office.’

So how do you plan to move those issues forward in the job of lieutenant governor: paid family leave, child care initiatives, broadband and other things?

Molly Gray: Absolutely. I think it's important to talk about why I got into this race and why those issues are so important. I mentioned previously that we are not only trying to recover from a global pandemic, and recover stronger, and to address justifiable social unrest, I hope we talk today about economic, social and racial justice in Vermont. But there's another crisis, and that's our demographic crisis. 

Vermont is one of the oldest states in the country. Today, we have more deaths than births in a majority of Vermont counties. I think Chittenden County and parts of southern Franklin County are the exception. We struggle to keep a generation here, to bring a generation back and certainly to bring a new generation to the state. And why is that so important? That's important because our tax base continues to shrink, our workforce continues to shrink. Twenty percent of our population is, I believe, over 65, and that's set to double in the coming years, five years, 10 years. 

So if we're going to think about the future of Vermont and what it is that's going to make us thrive economically, it's these exact issues. It is childcare, so that Vermonters can stay in their jobs and know that they can raise children in a place where they grew up. It’s broadband, so that not only do we have access to online learning for our children in a global pandemic, but we can attract people, to a state where we continue to say that we offer remote work, but in fact, one-fourth of Vermont can't geographically get online.

Editor's note: According to 2019 datafrom the Vermont Department of Public Service, approximately 23% of buildings in Vermont are served with internet service at less than 25/3 mbps, which means they do not, according to federal guidelines, have access to broadband internet.

If I can talk about paid family and medical leave for a moment and specifically share a story of my own, I have a family member, a dear loved one, who got sick. I was working in the attorney general's office, I'm on leave now. She was hospitalized and I ended up using all my vacation days and all my sick days caring for her. And it got to the point where, at 35-years-old, I was going to have to take potentially unpaid leave.

As someone with student loan debt, still working to pay off my law school loans, still renting, because I can't afford to buy until those loans are paid off and I save up money — it really hit me squarely in the face, as I think it does so many Vermonters, that we shouldn't have to choose in 2020 between caring for loved ones and paying the bills.

That's why paid family and medical leave are so, so, critically important as we look to the future and at our aging population, and also at taking care of family during this pandemic. I see these as the best economic investments we can make. And these are the exact reasons and issues that motivated me to get into the race, before the pandemic. But what we know from this pandemic is that these are the same issues that are facing Vermonters every single day: child care, broadband. They’re some of the best investments we can make as we move forward. 

Funding Child Care and Broadband Initiatives

Sean, Vermont Edition caller: I have a three part question for you, and I'm surely hopeful that you're going to get elected.

  1. How do you plan on attracting people to move to Vermont without ruining its rural economy and its environment?
  2. How do you plan to afford the child care, the internet and all the programs that you're talking about?
  3. Are you just using the governorship as a stepping stone to go to Washington? 

Molly Gray: Let's tackle the last question first. The answer is no. 
Then, let’s talk about how I plan to attract more people. So, as I mentioned earlier, we don't really have a choice anymore around drawing people to Vermont. We have to figure out how we're going to expand our tax base. The number one thing that I hear from businesses as I travel across the state is that they are unable to recruit and retain employees. Yet, we know that despite a lot of information out there, there are lots of really good, paying jobs. The McClure Foundation has identified, I think,62 different high paying jobs here in the state.

So, how are we going to do it? We're going to invest in childcare, because we know that there are families that want to raise children in the place where they grew up. But child care right now, I think, costs roughly $20,000 on average for a family here in Vermont. We also know that we have to have the Internet because you can't access remote work. You can't start a 21st century business without Internet access. You can't even run a credit card machine. So, if we're going to be a Vermont that's going to expand our tax base, and going to thrive economically, we have to make these strategic investments. 

The next question is, how do we afford it? How are we going to do it? I'm a strong believer, and I have brought this up throughout this campaign, that we have to align our budget with our greatest needs; child care and broadband being some of our greatest needs. We hear our businesses talking about that. We hear the Vermont Chamber of Commerce talking about that.

More from Brave Little State: Why Are Child Care Professionals Paid So Poorly In Vermont?

How do we do that in a way that doesn't raise taxes on Vermonters? It’s by partnering with our congressional delegation, with Sen. Leahy, with Congressman Welch, with Sen. Sanders, to make sure that, as federal relief funding comes to our state, we have the priorities set and we have a needs assessment done. And then, that we're taking the time to adequately create more child care facilities and more access to broadband around Vermont.

Then as we grow our population, we're ready to succeed. We're ready to grow our economy. And we're ready to expand at a time we have to address this shot. 

Affordable Housing

Jane Lindholm: Patrick in Westfield says, ‘I'm concerned about the large numbers of out-of-state folks purchasing property in Vermont during this pandemic. While this certainly benefits the tax base of many towns, are you concerned that this might make future home prices for Vermonters prohibitive? And how would you deal with this if elected?’

Molly Gray: That's an incredibly important question, and Patrick is absolutely right. From what I’ve heard from realtors, we’ve seen more homes sold sight unseen in Vermont than we have seen in years. I don't know when the last time this potentially occurred — maybe it was the Back to the Land movement in the ‘70s. So it's a hard balance to strike. On the one hand, as I mentioned, we absolutely have to expand our tax base.

More from VPR: The New ‘Beckoning Country?’ City Buyers Eye Vermont Property As COVID Sanctuary

I strongly believe it's not about raising taxes on hardworking Vermonters at this point. It's about ensuring we have more people paying into our tax base. So, yes, it may impact the cost of homes and the value of homes in Vermont. But I would say, this is the moment where we need to think about if people are going to move to Vermont, are they only going to move to those places where we have internet access? 

If I can go back to broadband for a moment, one-fourth of Vermont can't geographically get online. That's something like 70,000 homes and residences. One-in-three children in Newbury, where I grew up, during this pandemic couldn't get on the Internet.

Editor's note: According to 2019 datafrom the Vermont Department of Public Service, approximately 23% of buildings in Vermont are served with internet service at less than 25/3 mbps, which means they do not, according to federal guidelines, have access to broadband internet.

This is not only because of a lack of accessibility; there aren’t fiber cables running to homes in a lot of rural areas, but also because of the cost of accessing hardware and computers to get online.

More from VPR: Did Your Zoom Video Freeze Again? COVID-19 Crisis Highlights Internet Inadequacies

As we welcome people to Vermont, which we do need to do, we have to think about our economic infrastructure and make sure that we have that infrastructure set up so that there are investments in child care, there's investments in broadband so that we can welcome people to places like Newbury, and Orange County and up in the Northeast Kingdom, and in Southern Vermont, not just to Chittenden county. 

Gov. Scott has said that's really going to require a federal effort, sort of like the Rural Electrification Act, and more effort at a federal level to make sure that we see broadband as a utility that everybody should be served by. So what role or power would you have as a lieutenant governor within the state to try to make that happen here? 

I think keeping an eye on the ball, and I know that a lot of governors and lieutenant governors have said that. But what we know from this moment, just for example, around access to education, is that so many children couldn't get online.

I was down in Randolph in June and July talking with some teachers, and three-fourths of their kids were not able to get online. It's been so, so hard. We've asked our parents and teachers to do so much, when we invested so little in this basic infrastructure. Broadband today is heating or water in many cases, right? It's like electricity. To think of homes not having heat or water or electricity in 2020 is just outrageous, frankly.

More from VPR: Schools Start In Four Weeks. The State Is Scrambling To Set Up Broadband For Students

I 100% agree that this is not something Vermont can do alone. We're going to have to work with our congressional delegation. Certainly, if Sen. Leahy is put on the Appropriations Committee as chairman and we have Democrats taking control of the Senate, what we know is that we have a small state minimum and a focus on funding for rural states that need these types of strategic investment.

I think there's a lot of hope for the future, but we have to remain vigilant in recognizing what the need is and why this is so critically important to our recovery from this pandemic.

If I can speak just really briefly to our communications union districts, which we see ECFiber in Central Vermont, the Northeast Kingdom has a communications union district, as well. We see a lot of local expertise, and I know that we can do this community by community.

But I see the role of the lieutenant governor as being to work with our congressional delegation, work with the governor, whomever that may be, and work with our communities and communications union districts to help get this done over the coming years. And it's not going to happen overnight, that's for sure. 

Stance On Decriminalizing Sex Work

Penny, caller: I'm a new voter and I like to do my research. I was surprised to read on Twitter that you were interested in legalizing sex work in Vermont. Wouldn't this include girls being trafficked? Is this something you were saying to appease the person? 

Molly Gray: I have received a lot of questions about Vermont’s sex work policies recently. We're not quite sure why that is. But I appreciate your question. 

I certainly support initiatives here in Vermont to understand more about human trafficking, as it exists in the state. I work in the attorney general's office, but we have a human trafficking task force, statewide. I would continue to support their efforts. I think that we need more information. We need to collect more data on how sex work happens in Vermont. I think we need to commission a study. I'm a strong believer that we don't make decisions around policy until we have the expertise, the data and the information at the forefront. But thank you for the question. 

Jane Lindholm: I'm not sure this is the tweet that Penny had in mind, but we actually pulled this up before the show because we had some questions coming in as well. So, you had responded to somebody who had written to you in August on Twitter and you said, ‘I support state efforts to explore modernizing Vermont regulation of sex work. This includes preventing human trafficking, promoting safe access to law enforcement and health services and decriminalizing sex work.’ So you're not sure why these questions are being posed to you? 

We've received a lot of them most recently, and it was a question around why that was. But as I said, I absolutely support understanding more about human trafficking and the studies that have, I believe, started in the Legislature. But I would absolutely want to know more before making any clear or unequivocal statements.

The Role Of The Lieutenant Governor

Lucy, caller: Assuming Gov. Scott is reelected, how do you see yourself collaborating with him? I know that he said he wants to have Scott Milne be the new lieutenant governor. If you get in, how do you see yourself collaborating with him?

Molly Gray: You know, before truly deciding to run, I took a lot of time to meet with our former lieutenant governors: former Lieutenant Governor Madeleine Kunin, Doug Racine, Howard Dean, all of whom have endorsed my candidacy. Also, David Zuckerman and I sat down with Gov. Scott as well and really shared my reasons for running around our demographic challenges and figuring out this challenge of keeping a generation here. I know that's something that he's been working on, and something that the Legislature has been working on.

I know that we'll be able to work well together. I do feel confident in that. But I think the bigger thing that I'd like to share is what I've been doing throughout my life, be it clerking for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and Vermont’s judges, where if you're working on the rule of law and writing opinions, you don't talk about what party or political affiliation you have. You focus on writing a good legal opinion. When I was working for the Red Cross, we would never stop and say, ‘What party do you affiliate with?’ We talked about how to get humanitarian assistance across the world to places in conflict, or advocating for the rights of those detained at Guantanamo Bay.

So I feel really strongly that first and foremost, I'm a Vermonter, and that my experience has been working across party lines, putting issues first, bringing people together around issues. Certainly, here in our state, that means putting our families, our communities and our workers at the forefront when we just don't have time for partisan politics. We have a lot of work that we need to do, and I look forward to being part of the future. 

Jane Lindholm: That may be the culture of the work that you've been doing in the humanitarian sphere, and it may be even the way that you would like to work as a lieutenant governor, but if that's a one-sided culture or value, that's going to limit your ability to collaborate with the person in power in the position of the governor.

It’s one thing to say, “I don't see party affiliation.” If the person who's in charge does, that's a challenge. 

More from VPR: A Cartoon Guide To Voting In Vermont’s General Election

That's a really good point. Of course, I think there have been challenges in the past, but I strongly believe as a philosophy of leadership that if you focus on an issue – let's talk about childcare for a moment, and one success story that we did see over the last six months.

As the pandemic picked up, it was very clear that working folks and parents were trying to access childcare that didn't exist. I know our governor worked with our congressional delegation and Let's Grow Kids and the Legislature allocated $5 million for emergency child care access care in Vermont. 

I see myself as a convener. I'm really proud to receive the support of Democrats, Republicans and Progressives across the state. And I think I'm a candidate that's able to truly focus on leadership that's unifying and inclusive. We talked about Jacinda Ardern, and if I can look up to someone, it's someone like that, who is able to bring Vermont together around issues and solutions and being truly inclusive as a leader. 

Access to Mental Health Services

Nathan, caller: My question to Molly is, if you become lieutenant governor, what is your understanding of developmental services in Vermont? And what can you do to positively affect the lives of people receiving services from mental health agencies in the state?

Molly Gray: Nathan, thanks so much for your call. It's such an important question.

We just finished eight community forums across the state. In nearly every single forum, we received questions about mental health and support services for Vermonters. I think a lot of Vermonters are struggling right now, not only because of this pandemic, but because a lot of the basic avenues we have for accessing mental health and support services have been cut. I know our service providers are doing all they can. 

If I can provide just one example: earlier this spring, when COVID-19 hit, as a campaign, we were trying to figure out what we could do to support relief. One effort was to host regular town hall meetings with information for Vermonters. One of them was on mental health and support services, and it was terrific. We had Steps to End Domestic Violence come on, some other individuals and experts.

One thing they were saying was, ‘We've moved everything online, and so individuals around the state can access services online.’ Well, that only works in a global pandemic if you have access to broadband and internet. I raise that because I think this is just another area where investments in broadband allow for investments in telemedicine, investments in mental health and support services and ensuring we have access statewide. 

More from VPR: ‘We’re Stretched’: Mental Health Providers On The Pandemic’s Toll

But I wanted to share something else. I do serve statewide as an assistant attorney general. And what we know in Vermont is that we've had more officer involved shootings over the last couple of years than ever before, effectually suicide by cop. A lot of times we are asking police to respond to mental health crises. From that, I can certainly say that we have to invest in mental health and support services.

I think we invest heavily in incarceration, but don't think about proper prevention, about Vermonters who are struggling. We know that about 86% of firearm deaths in Vermont are suicide by firearm.

Editor’s Note: According to data from the Vermont Department of Health, 88% of firearm deaths in Vermont are due to suicide; 9% of firearm deaths are homicides.

I look forward to using Lieutenant Governor's office as a platform to demystify Vermont's mental health crisis, to talk about the support services that are needed and are available, and being a place where there is an open door and convening the experts in Vermont to help us think about a strategy for the future.

On Her Residency and Time Working Overseas

Joe, caller: Molly, you said you lived in Switzerland up until mid-2017 and paid taxes to the Swiss government. You also claim you were a Vermont resident during that period. My question is: Did you file and pay taxes to the state of Vermont while you were living abroad?

Molly Gray: I know that some of my work overseas has been the focus of the Milne campaign and others throughout this election. I'm a lifelong Vermonter. I grew up in Orange County and went through our education system. I've lived and worked across our state, in Newbury and Bethel, in Tunbridge and Rutland and Burlington.

I also had the opportunity to do some pretty incredible work working with our government and international partners, to launch the first international association in the world and spend some time in the last four years overseas, much like our National Guard or folks that do human rights work. I'm really, really proud of that work. And yes, I did pay taxes to the Swiss government, but filed taxes here in Vermont as a resident because I've been living here since 2011. 

Jane Lindholm: Joe, let me come back to you and ask a question. So when you ask this question of Molly Gray, I want to know your motivation. Is this something that is going to determine whether you vote or not? Do you not like Molly Gray and are you hoping that this will be highlighted as a way for people to not vote for her? What's the thing that concerns you about that?

Joe: I mean, my interest regards Molly’s commitment to the state of Vermont. So, you know, I've heard other things about where Molly’s been. And then I was just curious as to her continuity within the state of Vermont.

Jane Lindholm: Joe, what would convince you? What could Molly tell you about that, that would convince you about whether or not she's dedicated to Vermont and working for Vermonters, whether or not she's lived here the whole time? Or is there nothing? 

Joe: Well, I don't think that those are the same questions. So I guess I'll just stand with what I ask. And I appreciate the answer very much. 

Jane Lindholm: Joe, thanks. I mean, Molly Gray, whether or not this is a question that you think is a distraction, it's one that keeps coming up. And, you said Scott Milne and others keep bringing it up.

So how do you put it to bed? It doesn't sound like you checked in with the Secretary of State's Office to verify residency requirements. It sounds like that would have to be a legal challenge. Do you anticipate that happening if you get elected? I mean, this question just keeps coming up. 

More from VPR: A Cartoon Guide To Voting In Vermont’s General Election

Molly Gray: Before deciding to run, as any good lawyer would do, I sought a legal opinion. I had it reviewed by the head of the Vermont Bar Association, Vermont's top constitutional law experts, Vermont's top election law lawyers and more.

I think my opponent will probably continue to focus on that or other issues. He has a history of running negative campaigns. He attacked Sen. Leahy's family when he ran against him. So while he may want to spend time focusing on this, I want to spend time focusing on Vermonters.

And I couldn't be more proud to be born here and raised here. I’ve had some really incredible opportunities to use my skills and experience to fight for human rights globally and work in crisis.

Frankly, at a time where we are in a global pandemic and we have to address human need in our communities, I couldn't be more proud to be able to use some of that experience to help our state and our communities in Vermont, in this place that I love so much. So I'll leave it there. 

Gun Rights and Regulation

John, caller: I know that you grew up in a rural part of the state similar to me, and now I live in a more urban part of the state. I was just wondering if you could clarify your positions on firearm policy and if you could be specific about what you aim to propose, if anything, regarding that topic. What is your experience with firearms since you grew up in a rural part of the state?

Molly Gray: I grew up on a vegetable and dairy farm, and I will admit that we have chickens and if it's a fox or a coyote headed for the chicken house, my brothers are the first ones to say, ‘What are we gonna do? We need to get this fox.’ So I understand. 

Jane Lindholm: And what is your family's method? 

Well, it's: shoot the fox. 

There we go. It seems like you weren't saying something there. You know, there are lots of options.

But what I was saying earlier, I think is really important. 86% of firearm deaths here in Vermont are because of suicide.

Editor’s Note: According to data from the Vermont Department of Health, 88% of firearm deaths in Vermont are due to suicide; 9% of firearm deaths are homicides.

I think our state has taken some pretty bold action. We haven't had a school shooting in Vermont, thank goodness. We are continuing to work to expand universal background checks and 24-hour waiting periods, which I 100% support as a candidate and as lieutenant governor, I would support efforts to close the Charleston loophole.

But I do understand that part of Vermont's livelihood for those that work our lands is respecting firearms and their use, but also, I think that's different from some of the emergencies that we see and the efforts and actions we need to take right now. And certainly, having worked as an assistant attorney general, I'm acquainted with and understand some of those challenges as they impact our communities every single day 

And when you talk about the Charleston loophole, you're talking about the ability for some gun purchases to avoid the background check or the waiting period? 


So, you know, that would address some of the issues in Vermont. Vermont does have more stringent gun control policies than we did in the past. Vermont also has a really low incidence of gun violence and, as you said, has not had mass shootings of the type that have really devastated a lot of places, which is not to say that it couldn't happen here.

But when you speak to that question that John asked – about the sort of values and culture of a place and we've been talking about that in other areas of this interview today as well – and you said, you know, you realize that for families like yours that are farmers and for other families that are hunting or using firearms for other reasons, this can be a big part of the culture.

So, again, how do you balance that rural culture with legislation that can get at the issues like suicide and other things that you think would be improved with more stringent gun control measures?

I think it's important to recognize that there is a difference between weapons of war. As someone who's worked in conflict zones, I don’t want to see those on our streets. As I mentioned earlier, we've had more officer involved shootings in Vermont in the last two years. And it's scary. It's police responding to mental health crises and individuals in some cases having AR-15s. I think that's different from those who are working our lands and rely on our lands for their livelihoods.

So I think our challenge now is to figure out how to close the Charleston loophole, to expand universal background checks and 24-hour waiting periods, which I would absolutely support.

Retaining Young People

Jonas, caller: I was just wondering, being a young Vermonter in the workforce, seeing my friends and my family leave the state because of job opportunities, the price of land, taxes, what is your plan, if you have one, about how to keep generations here rather than bring people in from other states?

Molly Gray: You know, we have one of the highest high school graduation rates in the country. It's pretty remarkable. Yet 41% of our graduates don't go on to any additional training, be it CCV – we have some of the most expensive community college in the country. Vermont Technical College, Northern Vermont University, we have some pretty incredible programs.

And what I know, and I'm sure you've heard, is that there are tremendous amounts of good paying jobs that exist in our communities right now.

So I see this as an opportunity and this is a real focus of my campaign: to strengthen that pipeline from our classrooms into the training programs, be it at VTC or CCV, or working with our different electrical workers on apprenticeships or so many opportunities to get the training that we need for our young Vermonters and get them into those good paying jobs that exist right here, right now in the state.

But to go back to your question on the cost, of taxes, until we figure out how to keep more people in the workforce, child care, getting broadband in Vermont so that people can work remotely, we're going to continue to see a declining and shrinking tax base and workforce. So we have to address what it is that's going to keep getting Vermonters into the good paying jobs that exist right now across our state.

Addressing Climate Change

Jane Lindholm: Molly, you got a question from Paul in Waterville who says, ‘I'm an undecided voter. On Ms. Gray's website, she calls for investment in renewable energy programs. Gov. Scott has specifically called for a moratorium on ridgeline commercial wind development. What is your position on commercial ridgeline wind?’

Molly Gray: My position is that it has to be a local decision. I think, as we talk about the future of Vermont, we have to address making Vermont more energy independent. Wind may be a part of that, but I believe that that has to be a local decision.

Solar – certainly we see more projects across Vermont – but we certainly had a moratorium, I think, or a decline in solar jobs over the last four years.

If we're going to be a state that's not only resilient in the face of a global pandemic, where if we can take a step back for a moment, we've trusted the science, we've socially distanced, we've worn masks, we need to take that same sort of urgency and collective action in mitigating the impact of climate change on our health, on our well-being right now.

We've seen one of the driest summers in a number of years here in the state. Our farmers know that. My folks know that. I know a lot of our ski areas are gearing up for the winter, yet they're not sure where they're going to pull water from if we're making snow. So the question is not when are we going to act? It's how we are going to act and how we are going to act right now in a way that strengthens our economy, creates more jobs and sets us up for a more energy independent, resilient future. 

Well, @ourmanintheusa tweeted at us to say, ‘What sacrifices do you think Vermonters will need to make in order to hit the Global Warming Solutions Act goals?’

What specific sacrifices are individuals going to be called on to make?

I think we're going to have to take real efforts to weatherize our homes. But, for example: We're going to have to move into electric vehicles as a piece of the solution. And I want to be clear, in my brother's work on a farm, the idea of driving a Prius on a farm is just not possible.

But we see Ford producing F-150s now that are going to be electric . And so I think it's being patient, being ready to engage. We're all going to have to do our part, but know that it's going to create more economic opportunity.

But, the question was specific to sacrifices, because if we're going to meet really stringent reductions in greenhouse gases, that's not just going to require patience. It's going to require significant action –probably more action on all of our parts than we've had in the past. 

Yeah, I think it's everything from weatherization to moving to electric vehicles, looking at alternative heating sources, but doing it a way that allows Vermonters to participate. And that is going to require us as a state moving forward from the Global Warming Solutions Act, relying on the expertise that we have to make that possible for everyone.

Are you saying there won't be a sacrifice that’s going to feel hard to me as an individual Vermonter or hard to Vermonters? 

I think the goal will be that it's not something that happens overnight, but it's something that's incremental and happens in the days, weeks, months and years to come.

I'm going to say it one more time – only because I feel like you're not answering the question, which is about what is the sacrifice?

A sacrifice, by definition, feels challenging. I mean, if somebody wants to give me an electric vehicle, I will happily take it. But, you know, as somebody who buys used vehicles, that's going to take a while before those electric vehicles are at a price point that is realistic for many Vermonters.

Is there going to be a point at which we have to sacrifice in a way that feels hard, or are there ways that you believe we can meet these goals in the timeline proposed by the Global Warming Solutions Act that are not actually going to pinch Vermonters of limited resources?

I think there will be a sacrifice and we will feel it because addressing climate change, as it exists right now, is going to take that type of bold action. We've waited too long. I think the goal is figuring out how to make it accessible to those who are working our lands and those who are in communities where it will be. It will be challenging, but it’s the responsibility of the state to make it possible.

So it's sort of just a state issue, not necessarily an individual action issue at this point. 


Public Education And Rural Schools

Jane Lindholm: We got a question from Ruth in Shoreham who says, ‘How do you feel about the move to consolidate elementary schools? What can be done to protect towns and schools and move away from top heavy bureaucratic districts?’

Molly Gray: As someone who is a proud product of a small elementary school – Newbury Elementary School – the idea of Newbury Elementary School not existing is really the idea of Newbury not existing. It's where our town meeting is. It's where the community comes together.

I've talked to communities around the state – be it Ripton or Bristol or Readsboro – towns that have really been impacted by Act 46. I think that this global pandemic has really shown us that with more people moving to Vermont, with a move to online learning, in many ways I think it's time to take a step back from Act 46 and realize that it hasn't worked for all towns and then figure out how we're going to save our communities and small schools so that our young Vermonters can access local education.

For undecided voters, you know, you've got to make a push here in the last couple of days as people are probably sending in more and more ballots. What's the one thing you want them to know that they haven't heard you say before?

I think we have an incredible choice. You know, we can either fight the change or we can be the change. And I think this is our opportunity to be the change. From our greatest challenges, this pandemic, from our demographics crisis, climate change, social unrest come the greatest opportunities. And I want to be part of the future of Vermont, uniting our state and drawing on my truly diverse experience as a Vermonter who's worked nationally and also globally to bring Vermont together for a much more resilient, inclusive and bold future. 

More from VPR: A Guide To Voting In Vermont For The 2020 General Election

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Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
Matt Smith worked for Vermont Public from 2017 to 2023 as managing editor and senior producer of Vermont Edition.
Abagael is Vermont Public's climate and environment reporter, focusing on the energy transition and how the climate crisis is impacting Vermonters — and Vermont’s landscape.

Abagael joined Vermont Public in 2020. Previously, she was the assistant editor at Vermont Sports and Vermont Ski + Ride magazines. She covered dairy and agriculture for The Addison Independent and got her start covering land use, water and the Los Angeles Aqueduct for The Sheet: News, Views & Culture of the Eastern Sierra in Mammoth Lakes, Ca.
Ruby Smith was an intern in the Vermont Edition production team during the winter of 2020-21.
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