MONTPELIER — The head of the Vermont Republican Party said Friday that it is coming back after being “flat on its back and gasping for breath” and would like to have strong candidates for all statewide offices, but it is focusing on rebuilding its numbers in the state House and Senate.
The comments by GOP Chair David Sunderland came a day after Pomfret businessman Scott Milne announced he would seek the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent Democrat Gov. Peter Shumlin, just hours before the filing deadline.
Milne acknowledged his bid was a long shot, but Sunderland said the party is coming back from a low point and they’re thrilled with Milne’s candidacy.
“He will bring a reasonable, common-sense message to Vermonters about new and different solutions to the problems we face,” said Sunderland.
One political scientist urged caution.
Milne “does not really look enthused about this particular project, but he was the last man standing so as a result, he gets the nod,” said University of Vermont Political Science Professor Garrison Nelson. “He’s a smart guy, he knows what the number are.”
The party, which held 45 seats in the 150-member Vermont House and seven of 30 in the Senate in the session of the Legislature that just ended, is instead going to focus on rebuilding its numbers, Sunderland said.
“We are taking the party in a new and different direction,” Sunderland said. “Candidates are signing up and aligning themselves with that direction.”
He said that a gain of a handful of seats in the House and a few in the Senate would show Vermonters that the party is headed down the right course.
Perhaps the brightest spot for the Vermont Republican Party is incumbent Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, who is favored to win re-election. But he is being challenged by Progressive Party candidate Dean Corren, who has qualified to receive $200,000 in public funding for the primary and general election cycles by raising at least $17,500 in small donations from at least 750 people. Liberty Union candidate Marina Brown is also running for the office.
The race gives the Progressives what they’ve wanted for a long time, a statewide race with no Democrat, said Eric Davis, an emeritus professor of political science at Middlebury College. He predicted Corren could get 45 percent of the vote.MORE IN Vermont News
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