• Gov. race loses one challenger; others are in the wings
     | May 14,2014

    MONTPELIER — With the Legislature adjourned, the focus of Vermont politics now shifts to the election in November and the potential races ahead.

    Several people are weighing a run to unseat Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. These include Bruce Lisman, former chairman of the JP Morgan Chase Global Equity Division and founder of Campaign for Vermont; Randy Brock, a former state auditor and state senator; and Scott Milne, president of Milne Travel in Rutland.

    One lawmaker, Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, said Tuesday in an emailed statement that she has decided against a bid of her own. She began exploring the idea nearly two months ago.

    “After a great deal of thought and consideration over the last two months, I have decided that I will not run for Vermont governor this year,” she said. “Given the incredible support and encouragement I have received from Vermonters all over the state, this decision was a very difficult one, but it is simply not the right time for me.”

    In a telephone interview, Scheuermann said she did not think she had enough time to prepare and build the type of campaign she wanted. She will consider running in the future.

    “It mainly came down to timing. I wish I had started this exploration earlier,” she said. “I think if I had some more time, I would have been able to put together the effort that I think is needed and I wanted in order to take on this challenge.”

    She added, “I got a huge amount of support from Vermonters, which was really encouraging and really kept me in it as long as it did.”

    Still, Scheuermann, who intends to seek a fifth term in the House, said her experience over the last two months has reinforced her belief that Shumlin can be ousted.

    “The governor is not just vulnerable but, in fact, beatable,” she said. “Vermonters generally are looking for something different and looking for leadership that focuses on the priorities that they have.”

    David Sunderland, chairman of the Vermont Republican Party, said Tuesday he had hoped Scheuermann would challenge Shumlin.

    “I think she would have been a strong candidate, and I think she would have brought a lot of energy and new ideas,” said the former Rutland alderman. “So, I’m certainly disappointed but very understanding given the commitment that it takes.”

    Milne has told several media outlets that he is giving thought to jumping into the campaign. The news was first reported by WCAX on Monday. Milne’s father is the clerk of the Vermont House. His mother is a former Republican House member who voted in favor of civil unions.

    Sunderland said he has “had a couple of conversations” with Milne and the party wants him to continue his deliberation.

    “I think he would be a good and healthy addition to the race,” Sunderland said.

    Scheuermann said she is not endorsing any of the potential candidates.

    “I’m not in any position to say that at this point,” she said. “I was encouraged yesterday that Scott Milne is now considering it. I’ve met him a couple of times. I don’t know him well, but I certainly think he’d be a strong candidate.”

    Brock, a former Republican statewide office holder, “would bring a lot of experience and administrative experience” to the race, according to Sunderland.

    He said Brock has “a great background at running and winning statewide elections” and “would bring an interesting dynamic.”

    Sunderland said he is confident the GOP will run its own candidate in the gubernatorial race. Should he decide to run, it is widely believed Lisman will launch an independent bid. However, the party would consider Lisman under the Republican banner if he decides to seek the party’s nomination.

    Sunderland said Lisman has “ideas and thoughts about the condition of our state and the condition of the economy … that are hopefully aligned with what the Republican Party believes.”

    “I guess from that aspect we are reasonably close, and if he were to run as a Republican, certainly we would welcome him into the race,” he said.

    Frequent candidate Emily Peyton has already declared herself a candidate for the GOP nomination. The party is not embracing her candidacy, however.

    Both Brock and Lisman have had recent conversations with state GOP officials, according to Sunderland. Because paperwork is due in mid-June, the candidates will need to make up their minds soon, he said.

    “I think decisions, now that the Legislature has adjourned, will be coming pretty quickly,” Sunderland said.

    Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, meanwhile, will face Democratic and Progressive challengers.

    Democrat John Bauer of Jeffersonville announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor in March. He works as the sound supervisor at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center and a part-time wedding disc jockey.

    Bauer has been involved in Democratic politics since 2002, when he managed Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding’s campaign for state treasurer. He also managed Susan Bartlett’s unsuccessful bid for governor in 2010.

    Former state Rep. Dean Corren of Burlington announced this month that he will run for lieutenant governor as a Progressive. He is the chief technology officer of Verdant Power Inc. and previously worked as outreach director for Sen. Bernard Sanders when Sanders was in the U.S. House.

    Corren, who served from 1993 to 2000 in the Vermont House, plans to qualify for public financing under Vermont’s campaign finance law.

    The GOP may not field candidates for all statewide races. Attorney General William Sorrell, Treasurer Beth Pearce and Secretary of State Jim Condos, all Democrats, are seeking re-election. Sunderland said he is not sure which offices will have a GOP candidate.

    “I think there’s still folks who are still considering runs for other statewide offices,” he said.

    More than a dozen House members have announced they will not seek re-election. House Speaker Shap Smith may be among them.

    Smith, speaking to reporters last week before the legislative session adjourned, said he plans to take about two weeks before announcing whether he will seek re-election and a return as speaker.

    The Legislature is poised to take on meaty issues in the next biennium, including gun rights and health care financing, that could be tricky for a new speaker to navigate.

    neal.goswami @rutlandherald.com

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