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Explore our coverage of government and politics.

After Announcing Reelection Bid, Scott Says Debates Contingent On Coronavirus

Phil Scott.
Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
Times Argus File
Gov. Phil Scott, seen here prior to the pandemic, said Friday that he won't participate in political debates this year until and unless Vermont improves its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

In his first public comments after filing for his reelection candidacy Thursday, Gov. Phil Scott said his participation in political debates this year will be hinge on how well Vermont is battling the coronavirus pandemic.

Scott announced in an email Thursday morning that he’ll seek a third term in November. But the Republican incumbent said his singular focus on the state’s response to COVID-19 would preclude him from participating in “normal campaign events.”

Scott’s Republican and Democratic challengers alike said they worried Scott’s announcement signaled a preemptive refusal to engage in debates. Scott Friday declined to commit to any primary or general election debates, but said he anticipates being able to do so.

“I’m saying right now I want to focus on my job, which is being governor, and this is 24/7. Until we get to a point where we can see some daylight, where we’re opening up more businesses, and people aren’t suffering as they are today, I'll continue to do that,” Scott said. “If we continue to move in the direction that I’m pretty certain we’re going to be … then I can see myself participating in debates before the primary. But it’s all predicated on what happens with the coronavirus.”

More from VPR: Gov. Scott Files To Run For Reelection

Scott also said Thursday that he won’t have hire campaign staff or do any fundraising, so long as Vermont remains in a state of emergency. He said Friday that he will accept unsolicited campaign contributions.

“If they come through the door, obviously I won’t be turning them back,” Scott said. “But I’m not actively campaigning. I’m not actively fundraising. I’m really focusing at the job at hand today.”

Scott said his decision to seek a third term stemmed in part from the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic.

“When I first started this journey, running for governor, I had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to leave the office in better shape than I found it, and at this point in time, that’s not possible,” Scott said. “So I think have to finish what we started.”

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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