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After A Bruising Primary, Republican Party Looks To Unite

Peter Hirschfeld
Some of the state's top Republicans, including, from left, Don Turner, Scott Milne, Randy Brock, Phil Scott and Bruce Lisman, gathered for a "unity breakfast" in Montpelier Wednesday to close ranks after a heated GOP primary.

Republicans Phil Scott and Bruce Lisman are putting on a united front after their bruising gubernatorial primary. But the effects of Lisman’s sustained barrage against the new GOP nominee might linger on into the general election.

One of Lisman’s last television ads of the race called into question the lieutenant governor’s ethics, suggesting he became a “multi-millionaire” by using the powers of elected office to secure lucrative contracts with the Agency of Transportation.

The GOP primary is over now. And Scott has won, handily.

But the ad run by Lisman in the closing days of the race still echoes in the ears of some Republicans. And at the GOP’s so-called unity breakfast in Montpelier Wednesday morning, not everyone was ready to forgive Lisman’s tactics.

“I thought it was just way over the top and negative,” says Burlington Rep. Kurt Wright.

Wright says the decision to challenge Scott’s integrity was unfounded and ill-advised. 

Scott has said he’ll set up a blind trust to insulate himself from his business if he’s elected governor, and that the process used to award government contracts is transparent enough for voters to see nothing amiss has transpired.

"Now that the primary's behind us, I'm looking forward to working with Bruce [Lisman] to restore balance in Montpelier." - Lt. Gov. Phil Scott

Wright says a win for the GOP nominee in November will require support from independents and moderate Democrats. He says he knows some Democratic operatives who were thrilled to see Lisman drop tens of thousands of dollars on the ad buy, and he says he understands their glee.

“You’re hurting what turned out to be obviously the eventual nominee,” Wright says. “I think that is absolutely true.”

Wright isn’t alone in that assessment. But he and other Republicans, including Phil Scott himself, say that with the passage of Tuesday’s primary, the Lisman/Scott rivalry has given way to a strong alliance.

“And now that the primary’s behind us, I’m looking forward to working with Bruce to restore balance in Montpelier, elect more common-sense Republicans and take Vermont in a very new and more prosperous direction,” Scott told fellow Republicans Wednesday.

Credit Peter Hirschfeld / VPR
Vermont GOP Chairman David Sunderland, at the podium, called for unity Wednesday after the charged gubernatorial primary between Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, center, and Bruce Lisman, right.

Scott says there's one path to victory in the general election races for statewide office and, just as importantly, local races for House and Senate.

“This is really the time for our party to unite,” Scott says. “We need to all pull together to be successful in November.”

Less than 24 hours after his lopsided defeat, Lisman used his turn at the unity breakfast podium to tout his former rival. 

“Thank you so much for allowing me to be here. Thank you so much for listening to me,” Lisman said. “But the man to listen to now is Phil Scott.”

Randy Brock, the party’s nominee for lieutenant governor, said it’s time for Republicans to tell Vermont voters what it is they stand for. He said he’s narrowed that list to three things.

“The first is jobs and the economy. The second is jobs and the economy. And the third is jobs and the economy,” Brock said. 

Brock says that’s a winning message for Republicans in November. 

And Scott, Lisman and other prominent Republicans say they’re ready to deliver it, together.

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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