Campaign Countdown: Meet the candidates for Vt. lieutenant governor

Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 6:11 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - With the November election less than two months away, two long-time names in Vermont politics -- Democratic former Lt. Governor David Zuckerman and Republican state Sen. Joe Benning -- are looking to step up as lieutenant governor.

Vermont’s lieutenant governor has three primary tasks, including serving as governor when the chief executive is away or unable to serve, presiding over the senate, and casting tie-breaking votes.

Both candidates bring years of experience in the Statehouse with them. Benning has served as senator for Caledonia County for the past 12 years. “I know all the players. I know how they fit together. I know how some don’t fit together. I think I would make a good contribution to those conversations, appointing legislators to those committee assignments,” Benning said.

Zukerman has spent time serving in the House, Senate, and as lt. governor under Phil Scott. He lost a 2020 bid to unseat Scott. “There’s a need for a voice at a statewide level that’s going to be advocating on behalf of housing, that’s going to be advocating on behalf of the climate, and advocating for women and reproductive liberty,” Zuckerman said.

Governor Scott is widely expected to be re-elected over his Democratic opponent Brenda Siegel. Benning has made a point in his campaign to tout his strong relationship with the governor, saying that might be a weak spot for Zuckerman. “When he was lt. governor, he was not welcomed into Phil Scott’s cabinet. There has been conflict and contention there and the last thing we need coming out of COVID-19, as a senate, is to have conflict at the two top constitutional offices,” Benning said.

Zuckerman doesn’t see it that way. He says the disagreements with Scott can be viewed as positive. “I think some challenges to the governor, given now that he has vetoed more bills than any other governor out there -- from climate issues to economic policy issues like paid family medical leave -- having that counterbalance to his voice is probably healthy,” he said.

Zuckerman and Benning both acknowledge the minimal influence the lieutenant governor’s voice has but say the job is really meant to advocate for Vermonters. “As lieutenant governor, I used to travel and visit the state and bring the issues and ideas of people into the Statehouse, not just through only my interpretation but help them elevate their voices to their legislature to effect policy,” Zuckerman said.

“I think Vermonters are very much aware the federal money we’ve gotten from COVID-19 is about to dry up. I think they are very much concerned a substantial portion of our budget will be removed, that revenue stream will be gone,” Benning said.

In addition to supporting constituents, both candidates say they want to encourage people to live and work in the Green Mountain State. “Vermont is a desirable place to live. It’s really putting working and middle-class people in a bind and we need to address that if we want to continue to have hope for economic realities for people that work,” Zuckerman said.

“The lieutenant governor’s position gives you an opportunity to get out there, really promote Vermont, their people, their work ethic, their history, and what makes it a great place to live work and play. I intend to use the podium -- so to speak -- as a place to make that promotion,” Benning said.