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Vermont Legislature
Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

A Look At Potential Progressive Bids In Statewide Elections

Vermont Edition spoke to Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, chairwoman of the Vermont Progressive Party, about the 2016 gubernatorial race and a potential bid from her party.

There are now three Democratic candidates for governor: Matt Dunne, Sue Minter and Shap Smith. Two Republican candidates, Lt. Governor Phil Scott and Bruce Lisman, are in the running as well.

Thus far there are no Progressive candidates in the race, calling to question whether or not the party will unofficially support a Democratic candidate.

Vermont Edition spoke to Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, chairwoman of the Vermont Progressive Party, about the 2016 gubernatorial race and a potential bid from her party.

On past Democratic support

The Progressive Party did not run a candidate in the past three gubernatorial elections against Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. However, recent support for Shumlin within the Progessive Party is waning as he deviates from the party's core values. Last December, Shumlin dropped a planto implement a single-payer, government financed health care system. He also engaged in budget battleswith the Vermont State Employee's Association.

"I really think that people are quite disappointed in Democratic leadership in general," says Mulvaney-Stanak. "Governor Shumlin, but also the House leadership in the Vermont Legislature. We have not seen Democrats standing up on economic justice issues, and that is a core value and factor for Progressives."

Mulvaney-Stanak identifies the rights of the working people, including minimum wage increases and single payer, as key issues for the Progressive Party.

"That all feeds into how we're looking at 2016, and how we're looking at the governor and lieutenant governor race," says Mulvaney-Stanak. "People need better alternatives. Democrats have not been following through on what working Vermonters really need."

On the potential Progressive gubernatorial bid

Mulvaney-Stanak says it's "premature" for the Progressive Party to know if one of its members is mounting a campaign for governor.

"You cannot announce until February in Vermont if you seek public financing, and honestly with how much the gubernatorial and lieutenant gubernatorial races cost, its pretty hard for an average Vermonter to mount a viable campaign without seeking that public financing resource," says Mulvaney-Stanak.

She adds that if a Progressive candidate were to run, they would likely seek these public financing resources. "So that's a February decision, or piece of information."

If there isn't a Progressive candidate for the 2016 gubernatorial race, Mulvaney-Stanak says that May would be the time the party would "circle back to Democratic alternatives."

However, she says there is a "strong likelihood and [my] personal hope" that there will be a Progressive bid for governor.

On Progressive candidates for lieutenant governor, Vermont House and Senate

According to Mulvaney-Stanak, the Progressive party has "a lot more options for lieutenant governor in a very serious capacity." She cites their growing bench as a reason for this likelihood.

Efforts to increase Progressive presence in Vermont's House and Senate will be equal in priority to the races for governor and lieutenant governor. "We already are recruiting candidates for certain House and Senate races," says Mulvaney-Stanak. "We're very excited. We have some very capable, competent and smart people who want to run as a Progressive."

On the 'spoil' argument

With the potential of a Progressive candidate comes the threat of a lesser-known candidate pulling votes from the Democratic candidate, resulting in a Republican victory.

"I think that the spoil argument is one of the most undemocratic concepts that I've heard in all of my years of being involved in politics," says Mulvaney-Stanak. "Because in a democracy, we should be having more options, not less. There should not be a dictation that you can only chose from two parties, one being the Democrats and one being the Republicans."

She also cites Shumlin's marginal 2014 gubernatorial re-election as a reason why a third party candidate is not to blame for pulling votes. No Progressive candidate ran in the 2014 race, and yet Shumlin barely beat Milne.

To Mulvaney-Stanak, the burden of winning the election falls onto the candidate. "Elections are about winning the hearts and minds of the majority of Vermonters," she says. "It should not be about, 'Hey, get out of the race because you might siphon off some of the votes that I would have gotten.'"

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
Erin was an assistant producer for Vermont Edition.
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