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With Brock Out, Tension Over GOP's Gubernatorial Propects Builds

With just three days until the filing deadline, the Vermont Republican Party is still without a candidate for governor. And an announcement Sunday evening from former state auditor Randy Brock has dimmed prospects that the GOP will be able to field a name-brand challenger to run against Democratic incumbent Peter Shumlin.

After months of deliberation, Brock, who lost to Shumlin in 2012, announced he won’t seek a rematch in 2014. Brock said in a written statement that “this decision has not been easy to reach.” 

“I have arrived at it over several months after careful thought, much input and serious deliberation,” Brock said.

Brock’s exit winnows to one the number of prospective GOP candidates publicly weighing a bid. Businessman Scott Milne has said he’ll wait until the arrival of the June 12 filing deadline – the end of the business day Thursday – before deciding whether to mount a candidacy.

But Milne has said an issues-oriented Republican primary against Brock, which he said would amplify the GOP message and set the stage for a more competitive general election for the eventual winner – was his preferred electoral scenario.

Milne wasn’t immediately available this morning. And it’s unclear to what extent Brock’s decision not to run will figure in whatever decision Milne comes to this week.

House Minority Leader Don Turner says the party’s inability thus far to secure a candidate is troubling. Emily Peyton has said she’ll run under the Republican banner, though the GOP says it will disavow her candidacy if she’s the party’s nominee.

Turner said he hopes to have as many as 95 Republican candidates for the House in 2014 – a sizeable jump from the 74 candidates he fielded in the 2012 cycle. But he said success in those races hinges at least in part on the strength of the candidate at the top of the Republican ticket.

“When you don’t have anybody at the top leading the way, it’s hard to generate that message that people can follow,” Turner said Monday. “The other problem you is when you don’t have someone stepping up to lead the ticket, other people considering smaller races say, ‘well, why should I do it?’”

Turner said Milne attended a candidate training event last week, and that he’s spoken with the Pomfret resident and owner of Milne Travel about his possible bid.

“I think he’d be a very good candidate,” Turner said. “I think he’d represent the business community in Vermont in a more fiscally conservative manner, so I hope he runs.”

Brock said understands the strategic calculus behind Milne’s desire for a Republican primary. But he said he doesn’t entirely agree with it.

“It would increase the visibility of the debate on the one hand, but what it would do is, for a campaign in which you need to raise a lot of money, it would have bifurcated funding,” Brock said. “It would reduce the amount of money available for the general election, and it would also have prevented the commitment of the state party, and any funding the state party might provide, until after the primary election.”

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott is the lone Republican in statewide office – he’s running for a third term. Republicans also have yet to field any candidates for secretary of state, state treasurer, state auditor, or attorney general.

The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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