Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman addresses the media gathered at a Capital Plaza Hotel event to announce his candidacy for governor on Monday in Montpelier.

MONTPELIER — Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman announced Monday he is running for governor.

Zuckerman, D/P-Chittenden, said issues that he would campaign on include: raising the minimum wage, combatting climate change, and affordable access to health care, housing and higher education.

Zuckerman joins Rebecca Holcombe, former education secretary, who announced a run for governor in July.

Incumbent Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, has yet to announce whether he would run for a third term, but has already sent a letter to campaign contributors, and according to Zuckerman, has appointed a campaign manager.

Zuckerman’s announcement also was preceded by Senate Pro Tempore Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden, who last week said he would run for lieutenant governor if Zuckerman chose to run for governor.

Others who have also said they would run for lieutenant governor include Molly Gray, an assistant attorney general and Brenda Siegel, former gubernatorial candidate. Republican Meg Hansen, of Manchester, is also running for lieutenant governor.

Zuckerman’s announcement came at a news conference Monday at the Capitol Plaza Hotel that also was streamed live on social media.

“I’ve been serving Vermonters and the state I love for more than two decades, including the last three as your lieutenant governor,” Zuckerman said. “This has been a great honor.

“I have met thousands of wonderful people from all corners of the state with diverse backgrounds and opinions. The issues they raise and the challenges we face are the reasons I’m running,” he added.

Zuckerman said his decision to run for governor was not an easy one.

“I am a small business owner and a farmer,” Zuckerman said. “My wife has health challenges and we have a teen at home.

“My family is incredibly important to me. Though a privilege, public service requires dedication, time and energy. So, I had to weigh many factors,” he added.

Zuckerman said he would continue to fulfill his duties presiding over the Senate through the end of the session, but said he would launch a larger kickoff of his campaign come spring.

In answer to questions about his reasons for running, Zuckerman said there had been a lot of discussion about “affordability,” the central tenet of Scott’s political platform, but said there had been little progress on improving the economic fortunes of Vermonters. He said raising the minimum wage would make the state more affordable, something Scott has opposed because of the potential impact on businesses and the economy.

Climate change is also a priority for Zuckerman, who criticized Scott for failing to act on recommendations by a commission appointed by his administration to address the crisis.

“I think they put out over 54 recommendations and we’ve seen very few of those get taken up by this administration in a way to move us forward, in fact, when this climate crisis ... is severely affecting our farmers, our tourism industry, the maple industry and much of what we love in Vermont,” Zuckerman said.

Zuckerman also acknowledged that Scott only mentioned the word “climate” twice in his state-of-the-state address last week: once in reference to changes to the Act 250 land use law to allow more development in downtowns; and in reference to encouraging people to buy electrical vehicles. Scott did not mention much broader programs to address climate change, such as the multi-state Transportation Climate Initiative to reduce carbon emissions or the Global Warming Solutions Act to mandate that state agencies reduce emissions in the state.

“A lot of people try to couch these things as environment versus the economy or versus jobs, but the reality is that there are thousands of jobs in an environmentally friendly future,” Zuckerman said. “We’ve got tens of thousands of homes that need to be weatherized, which would not only create jobs and reduce carbon emissions, it would also save working families money in heating bills and energy bills going forward, which would make this state more affordable for them.

“So, if we would invest in those kinds of measures, its’s a win-win, and that’s the future that I think people are looking for,” he added.

In answer to the observation that it’s been almost 60 years since an incumbent governor was defeated, Zuckerman said there had been a building frustration that the economic circumstances of Vermonters had been “stagnant for years and years” with Vermonters “living paycheck to paycheck.”

“There’s going to be a huge wave, I think, of energy, that’s been building for years, for a Progressive future for this state on issues like health care, climate crisis, wages, affordability, affordable housing, and folks are frustrated with government as usual,” Zuckerman said. “They would rather there would be folks looking out for them, really fighting for them in the executive office.”

Zuckerman said he also supported a “wealth tax” recently proposed by Sen. Anthony Pollina, D/P-Washington County, in his Vermont Green New Deal. It proposes taxing the wealthiest top 5% of earners to raise $30 million annually to fund programs that address climate change.

Zuckerman is the co-founder of Full Moon Farm, a Northeast Organic Farming Association certified organic farm in Hinesburg. Inspired by the U.S. Sen. Sanders when he was a representative in Congress, Zuckerman first ran for the Vermont House in 1994 while enrolled at the University of Vermont. He lost by 59 votes but came back two years later to become the fourth Progressive Party member ever to serve in Montpelier and the highest third-party public official in the country.

Other issues he has supported include renewable energy, cannabis reform, GMO legislation, progressive taxation, marriage equality and end-of-life choices. Zuckerman served in the Vermont Senate as a Progressive/Democrat since his election in 2012 until elected lieutenant governor in 2016 and was also the vice chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

stephen.mills @timesargus.com

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