Phil Scott to seek 5th term as Vermont governor

Gov. Phil Scott speaks during his weekly press conference at the Statehouse in Montpelier on Wednesday April 3, 2024. (VtDigger -  Glenn Russell)

Gov. Phil Scott speaks during his weekly press conference at the Statehouse in Montpelier on Wednesday April 3, 2024. (VtDigger - Glenn Russell) Glenn Russell—Glenn Russell

By SARAH MEARHOFF

VTDigger

Published: 05-13-2024 3:56 PM

Modified: 05-13-2024 4:11 PM


Gov. Phil Scott isn’t ready to hang up his hat.

In an announcement issued Saturday evening, the four-term Republican governor said he will seek another two-year term in this year’s election cycle. 

“During my four terms as Governor, my team and I have worked to grow the economy, make Vermont more affordable, and protect the most vulnerable. I’ve done my best to rise above partisanship to solve problems, and help people,” said Scott, who has held the post since 2017.

“While we’ve made progress over the years, we still have more work to do. But to do that, we need more balance in the Legislature,” he continued.

Throughout his political career, the 65-year-old Berlin resident has staked out a position as a moderate Republican. As governor, he has consistently beat the drum of low taxes and fiscal conservatism, while generally taking liberal stances on social issues such as abortion rights and LGBTQ+ equality. 

A frequent critic of former President (and current presumptive Republican nominee) Donald Trump, Scott publicly threw his support behind Democratic President Joe Biden during the 2020 election.

Since Scott first won the governor’s seat, his office has touted his popularity with Vermont voters, despite the state’s politically blue makeup. In fact, polls have consistently shown that Scott’s greatest base of support comes from Democrats and independents. 

His popularity skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the vast majority of Vermonters giving him high marks for his handling of the public health emergency. Last election, Scott won by his largest margin yet, garnering 71% of the vote.

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Should Scott prevail in this summer’s Republican primary and November’s general election, he would secure one of the longest gubernatorial tenures in recent state history. (There are no term limits for governors in Vermont.) Scott’s decade in office would be topped only by that of former Gov. Howard Dean, a Democrat, who occupied the seat for nearly 12 years.

Ironically, Scott just may face off with Dean this fall. The former governor and Democratic National Committee chair has been teasing a political comeback, publicly mulling a run for Scott’s seat. Esther Charlestin, a Democrat and former school administrator who blew the whistle on racism she experienced at a Middlebury middle school, already declared her candidacy for the race in January.

Before being elected to Vermont’s highest state political office, Scott served as lieutenant governor from 2011 to 2017 and as a state senator representing Washington County from 2001 to 2011.

His position in the minority party — first, as a legislator, then as a statewide office holder — has shaped much of his political career. And in his reelection announcement, the governor returned multiple times to a familiar theme: balance. 

“For the most part, I believe Vermonters want balanced debate, balanced policy and balanced politics,” he said, later adding, “I cannot step away at a time when Vermont’s Legislature is so far out of balance.”

He noted that he was making his announcement in the company of his longtime friend and mentor, former Sen. Dick Mazza, D-Grand Isle, who stepped down from his seat last month amid health challenges. “It didn’t matter to him that I was a Republican and he was a Democrat. He became my mentor and has not left my side since,” Scott said in his statement. 

Democrats have gained more seats in Vermont’s Legislature in recent years, and in 2022, they surpassed the critical two-thirds threshold needed to override gubernatorial vetoes. As a result, House and Senate leadership has become emboldened in recent legislative sessions to pass bills despite the governor’s objections. Scott, for his part, hasn’t been shy about using his veto power, issuing a record number of vetoes during his years in the top office.

Pressed for weeks by reporters about his election plans, Scott had demurred. He said he would wait to make a campaign announcement until state legislators adjourned their 2024 session and the political heat died down in Montpelier. Lawmakers gaveled out early Saturday morning.

The deadline for major party candidates to file for the race is May 30. Primary elections to elect party nominees are on Aug. 13.