What the pandemic has done for Vermont is to strip bare the pretense that we can remain complacent, that we can defer responsibility, and that we can do things by our lonesome. We cannot. The challenges ahead will require bold leadership, a commitment to progress, regardless of the difficulty, and the ability to collaborate, to inspire, and to corral Vermont’s best talent in the singular struggle to make Vermont an enviable place to live and work.
It’s a choice between looking back, and looking forward, a choice put before Vermonters in the lieutenant governor’s race between Republican Scott Milne and Democrat Molly Gray on Nov. 3. Ms. Gray is the candidate looking forward, daring to reinterpret the real needs of Vermonters in a way fundamental to how we can progress in the decades ahead. Mr. Milne, 61, is the candidate looking back, repeating the same conservative tropes that, once upon a time, were accepted but which are no longer applicable.
For Vermont, it is Ms. Gray’s aggressive push to extend what exists in Chittenden County to the rest of Vermont that makes her candidacy so compelling. The timing of her candidacy is also pitch perfect; the opportunities before us are considerable, but they need an articulate champion, a model that invites a new type of energy, a type that appeals to both within and outside our borders, something essential if we are to battle the demographic crisis that plagues us.
The Vermont of tomorrow cannot compete in the workplace if it does not embrace the need for broadband in all of Vermont. The Vermont of tomorrow cannot have a fully functioning workforce if we do not commit to the need for adequate childcare and stronger schools. The Vermont of tomorrow cannot prosper if we don’t channel our talent and our educational resources in a way that’s in harmony with the challenges facing not only Vermont, but the nation and the world.
It’s no longer an option for us to elect leaders and then watch as they occupy the office but do little to force the essential conversations forward. With Ms. Gray there is the reasonable hope that she will use the position to engage a new generation of Vermonters in the march toward a different and more adaptable future. True to her intellectual and athletic bona-fides, she’s the complete package. She also has the necessary grit — a product of her upbringing on her parent’s vegetable and fruit farm. She knows about hard work, she knows about the struggle. She’s had the dirt beneath her fingernails. Nothing has been given to her. It’s been earned.
Ms. Gray is a Democrat but with an aura that should appeal to all Vermonters, liberal or conservative, rich or poor, college-educated or a high school graduate. She speaks the language of inclusiveness. She embraces the need to cut through the pretense so that real issues can be addressed with real solutions.
If elected, Ms. Gray would be only the fourth woman to be elected to the position, something that should motivate anyone interested in balancing the political equation. The last time a woman was elected to be lieutenant governor in Vermont was 1993-1997, with the two terms of Republican Barbara Snelling. That’s a quarter-century ago. It’s time. It’s past time. For those who ask if this 36-year-old assistant attorney general has the needed “life experience”, recognize and admit the question is the tired and unquestionably sexist personification that has always been used to keep women down.
Does Ms.Gray have what it takes? More than enough. She’s risen above what is certainly the nastiest political campaign in Vermont. She has kept on message, focusing on issues, not personalities. She has kept her composure and her cheer, despite the envy that oozes from her rivals. She is being recognized as someone who speaks beyond her party, to all Vermonters and in this race she alone is the one who generates the excitement about what the new generation of Vermont’s leadership could be.
Molly Gray is the leader Vermont needs as we work to step past the pandemic and position ourselves to address not only our demographic crisis, but how we reposition our economy to be more inclusive and more vibrant. It will require someone to push us out of our comfort zones; to be bold and unrelenting, to insist on moving forward. Ms. Gray is that leader.
by Emerson Lynn