Taking to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook with early-morning posts, Gov Phil Scott touted his accomplishments as governor and announced “there’s still much more work to do,” and that he will seek reelection to the post he has held since 2017.
“First, I want to thank you for all the support you’ve given me over the years,” the three-term Republican governor said Tuesday in his social media posts. “In that time, we’ve made a lot of progress, like record budget surpluses and record investments in housing, infrastructure, broadband, combating climate change, and more.”
He noted that “we’ve stopped multiple attempts to raise taxes, fees and the cost of living on already overburdened Vermonters. And while not nearly enough, we’ve even provided some much needed tax relief.
“But there’s still much more work to do! That’s why I’ve decided to seek another term as governor.”
In a news briefing later Tuesday, Scott said “it’s been a long six years,” but he felt it was important to keep his experienced administration officials in place as Vermont moves through this time of high inflation and potential recession, as well as implementing the programs — many of them supported by federal funding — approved by the legislature and signed into law by the governor.
“We need a seasoned team in order to do that. That’s what we provide,” he said.
Scott also referenced national partisan vitriol, adding, “We’ve proven that when we put politics aside and pull together, we can successfully navigate a once-in-a-century pandemic better than most every other state across the country.
“At a time when America seems more divided and polarized than ever, I’ve worked to bring people together. Listening to — and learning from — all points of view, so we can try to find consensus. Always treating others — even when we fundamentally disagree — with respect and dignity. And I’ve never run a negative campaign and never will, because Vermonters, and all Americans, deserve a better and more civil political space — if for no other reason than to be better role models for our children, because they’re watching us.”
The governor said he has not spoken with anyone at the National Republican Committee about his plans, and he will not begin campaigning until after Labor Day.
“I will continue to focus on doing the job you hired me to do and leading our state,” he said. “You’ll hear more from me in the months ahead, but for now, I just wanted to let you know what I’ve decided.”
Scott’s strong reelection results and polling data confirm his popularity.
"Generally incumbent governors become more vulnerable the longer they serve, simply because they make more decisions and can anger more people. Not Phil Scott. He is as popular today — and with some segments more popular today — than when first elected,” said Chris Graff, former Vermont AP bureau chief and longtime political observer. Graff also hosted a series of Vermont Public Television programs entitled “The Governors,” which documented the personal and political lives of former Vermont governors.
Polling this year shows his strongest approval ratings come from Democrats and independents, which would give pause to some potential challengers.
"His handling of the pandemic is a big part of his popularity. Overall, people have come to believe throughout the crisis that they can trust him — and that’s huge,” Graff said. “Certainly his strong stands against Trump have helped build his brand as independent from the right wing Republicans now dominating the GOP.”
Graff noted that the large number of legislative leaders not seeking reelection “also helps the governor’s case that continuity in the executive branch is important.”
He said if Scott is reelected, his challenge will be weaning the state off the millions of COVID-related federal dollars that have been pouring into the state. "The state has been able to finance a lot this year and last because of the huge federal aid,” Graff said. “That will be drying up.”
Brenda Siegel of Brattleboro plans to file with the Secretary Of State’s office today to seek the Democratic nomination for governor. She is the only major party candidate to announce.
“This is going to be a tough fight and one worth having,” she said in a statement. “It is essential that we move past the initial phase of this campaign and get to work meeting Vermonters and bringing their voices and visions forward.”
Gov. Scott said he expects others to drop into the race and anticipates a Republican challenge in the primary.
"We’ll see who else surfaces. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a race where I haven’t had a primary, so I’m still expecting someone to surface to challenge for the primary,” he added.
Scott previously served as lieutenant governor, and in 2011, was active in the statewide cleanup and recovery effort following Tropical Storm Irene. Prior to that, he was elected to the Vermont Senate for five terms, representing Washington County. He served as vice chairman of the Transportation Committee and chair of the Institutions Committee.
He also launched Wheels for Warmth program, allowing Vermonters to donate used tires that meet state inspection standards, which are then offered for sale at affordable prices. The proceeds benefit heating fuel assistance programs.
Scott also still races the #14 car at Barre’s Thunder Road speedway.