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Explore our coverage of government and politics.

Crowded Gubernatorial Race Will Kick Off With Shap Smith's Announcement

The dome of the Vermont Statehouse on a cloudy day with the Vermont flag flying.
Angela Evancie
VPR file
House Speaker Shap Smith will be the first to declare his candidacy for the 2016 gubernatorial election, but several others are poised to enter the race.

On Wednesday morning, House Speaker Shap Smith will kick off the 2016 campaign season when he announces his bid for governor. While Smith will become the first candidate to declare his candidacy, however, he certainly won't be the last.

FormerWall Street executive Bruce Lismantook to his Facebook page over the weekend to update friends and followers on his political plans. In a short post, Lisman wrote that many have asked about when he will announce his intentions. He assured them that "it will be very soon."

"So I think there's a moment here where it's time for me to reflect on things that people are speaking to me about, or asking me to consider," Lisman said by phone Tuesday. "And I think that's the moment we're in."

Lisman won't say what "very soon" means. But asked Tuesday whether he's feeling more or less strongly these days about whether he'll be a candidate, Lisman was quick to answer: "more strongly."

Shap Smith will become the first candidate to confirm his gubernatorial ambitions. Others of his party no doubt will soon follow, like former Windsor County senator Matt Dunne.

Dunne says he isn't a candidate yet. But he's sure acting like one. The Google executive has already raised more than $100,000 toward a gubernatorial run, and he says he has secured a core campaign team to steer the effort, assuming he decides to pull the trigger.

Dunne has been using blast emails in recent weeks to rally supporters, and he'll soon set out on a 14-county listening tour.

"I feel it's really important that before any final decision is made, we hear directly from people in the communities where they live," Dunn says.

Former state representative and current Transportation Secretary Sue Minter is also seriously thinking about running for the Democratic nomination.

On the Republican side, the field is still taking shape. Lisman says he doesn't know yet whether he'd run as a Republican or an independent, a decision that could have far-reaching repercussions on the general election.

Five-term Lt. Gov. Phil Scott is the highest-profile prospect for the GOP. He says he needs to figure out a way to put a firewall between himself and his construction company, which bids on state highway contracts, before he can move forward with a candidacy.

"I think the plan that I'm putting together could work, and we've just got to put all the pieces together," Scott says.

Scott Milne, the businessman who nearly defeated Gov. Peter Shumlin last November, says he's considering his options. Former State Auditor Randy Brock also is mulling a bid, as is Libertarian-turned-Republican DanFeliciano, who won about 4 percent of the vote last November.

Phil Scott says it's still early in the process.

"As far as I'm concerned, there's still no hurry," Scott says.

"As far as I'm concerned, there's still no hurry." - Lt. Gov. Phil Scott on declaring his candidacy

Others though are feeling more urgency. Matt Dunne, who came up short in a five-way Democratic primary in 2010, says he learned several lessons from the experience.

"One is that getting started early makes a big difference," he says.

Shap Smith will announce his candidacy in downtown Morrisville at 11 a.m. on Wednesday.

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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