Morning after primary, Republicans rally for unified party
After a contentious yearlong primary battle, Republicans sat down together Wednesday morning over pancakes and eggs.
Just 12 hours after Lt. Gov. Phil Scott soundly defeated former Wall Street executive Bruce Lisman to secure the GOP nomination for governor, the two sat side by side at a party breakfast in Montpelier as a string of party leaders and candidates stood up and called for a unified front.
"A lot of positive energy in here," one person observed over a heap of home fries.
The message of positivity and unity comes after a hard-fought race. Lisman ran an aggressive campaign criticizing Scott and far outspent him. Scott declared Tuesday night that "negative campaigns don't work in Vermont."
Before inviting Lisman to the podium Wednesday morning, Republican Party Chair Dave Sunderland called the primary race "one of the most vibrant" contests for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in recent history.
In brief remarks, Lisman reflected on months of campaigning against Scott.
"Throughout, though, even when we were arguing and arguing in public, I never changed my view of him," Lisman said. "A person I like a great deal."
Vermont Republican Party Chair Dave Sunderland speaks at a unity breakfast Wednesday in Montpelier. Photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger
Lisman said Scott cares "deeply" about Vermont and listens to Vermonters, and he praised Scott's leadership.
"And finally I want to tell you that Phil Scott, Phil Scott is going to be a great governor," Lisman said.
The room of about 100 people at the Capitol Plaza Hotel stood and applauded Scott as he took the podium.
Scott turned some of the focus to legislative elections, encouraging people to support Republicans in Senate and House races.
"We have a great opportunity to pick up seats across this state and elect more common-sense Republicans," Scott said.
He emphasized state finances and vowed to promote economic growth as governor, criticizing budget and tax policies in recent years. "State spending is growing too fast, and our economy is growing too slow," he said.
"We have to have an honest discussion in this campaign about the fiscal situation we face, about the policies that got us here into this mess, and about the real results of six years of one-party rule," Scott said.
A slew of other prominent Republicans spoke, including Scott Milne, who nearly unseated Gov. Peter Shumlin in 2014 and is running for U.S. Senate against Sen. Patrick Leahy.
Randy Brock, the Republican contender for lieutenant governor, also reinforced a message of a unified front ahead of the general election. Brock will face Chittenden County Sen. David Zuckerman in that race.
The executive director of the Vermont Republican Party, Jeff Bartley, kicked off the speeches at the breakfast by outlining some of the party's approaches in the general election. The party is launching an initiative to get 10,000 people to sign up for absentee ballots and commit to voting for Republicans.
Bartley also took the opportunity to speak against implementing a carbon tax, an idea the Republican Party opposes. Bartley said the issue is an initiative of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, or VPIRG.
"We've heard of this thing called the carbon tax, and it's coming," Bartley said.
The party is launching an ad against the proposal.
At a debate last month, Sue Minter, who won the Democratic nomination for governor Tuesday, outlined her position on carbon emissions. She advocates continuing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a program that aims to cap emissions cooperatively with other states in the area.
Despite losing, Lisman later said he had no regrets about his campaign.
He said he urges his supporters to back Scott as the candidate. "I support Phil without reservation, without qualification," he said.
Scott said that now, after the primary, "It's time to hit the refresh button and look forward to the general election."
He expressed confidence that he can reach out to Lisman supporters to bring them on board. His platform and Lisman's "are not dissimilar," he said.
"Our tactics were different, our strategy was different, but the message was clear," Scott said.
As to the negative ads the Lisman campaign ran against him, Scott said it's possible there could be a lingering impact.
"It could have some hangover effects, but it's up to me now to get out and get engaged with Vermonters and reintroduce myself, so that's my job," Scott said.
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