Political candidates come in two stripes: The first is someone who has the vision to see the world about them, the humility to understand the needs of others, the energy to drive change and the persistence to weather the opposition. The second is someone who puts themselves at the center, who insists the world adapt to them, and whose energy is rhetorical and forever inwardly directed. The first is the leader for whom we search, that diamond in the rough; the second is a politician, the ordinary sort, the one more common to the times.

In Vermont, we don’t typically have leaders who step into the spotlight, largely unknown, and surprise us with an instant sense of credibility and a strong sense of hope for the future. But Molly Gray, a Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, has done just that. Ms. Gray is far and away the most qualified Democratic candidate running for Lt. Gov.

For those looking to the years ahead, and who doesn’t, Ms. Gray embodies the leadership qualities essential for the generations to come. At age 36, and with the experience she has already gained, she has put together a profile that Vermonters can celebrate as we move from one generation of leaders to the next. For a state that has been run by a group of “old white men” for almost 30 years [since Madeline Kunin was governor], it’s beyond refreshing to see a woman candidate of Ms. Gray’s caliber stepping forward. [Remember, too, that Vermont has never elected a woman to Congress.] Ms. Gray serves as Vermont’s Assistant Attorney General and she teaches night classes at the University of Vermont Law School, where she got her law degree. She worked on the staff of Rep. Peter Welch in Washington D.C., and was a law clerk to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Peter Hall. She worked abroad for the International Committee of the Red Cross and on global initiatives centered around human rights issues throughout the third world. In other words, she’s applied her intellect to become well-rounded in her understanding of Vermont, the country and the world in general.

Her understanding of life within and beyond our borders twins naturally with her expressed interest in tackling Vermont’s biggest challenge, which is a demographic in decline. She has an open mind as to how our health care system needs to evolve to be more affordable. She’s identified early child care as an essential need. She knows rural Vermont needs better Internet services.

Ms. Gray has not held public office and thus doesn’t have a legislative record to peruse or contest; the fall back is to look at who she is and the values she exhibits.

For those of us in Franklin County, or rural Vermont, or anyone who places value on grit, determination and just plain hard work, it’s important to know she’s still got some dirt underneath her fingernails. She was raised on her parents’ vegetable, fruit and dairy farm in Newbury — a farm still run by her parents and a brother. She knows rural Vermont. She lives it. Nothing was ever given to her. It was earned.

She attended the University of Vermont on an athletic scholarship; she was a Division 1 cross country skier. There is no sport more grueling or more demanding. It requires a maximum of physical effort and mental toughness. [She comes by it naturally. Her dad competed in the 1968 and 1972 Winter Olympics and her mother was a former U.S. alpine skier.]

Ms. Gray is also the niece of Bill Gray, former U.S. Attorney in Vermont who made a senatorial bid against Jim Jeffords in 1988. Mr. Gray was perhaps one of Vermont’s most venerable public figures and a person of great influence to Ms. Gray.

It’s this combination of dirt beneath her fingernails, intelligence, grit, and family values that has gathered the support and attention from so many accomplished Vermonters, beginning with former Governors Madeline Kunin and Peter Shumlin, former Lt. Gov. Doug Racine, and countless business leaders and legislators.

It’s encouraging to see this level talent rise to the top in Vermont. She gives us hope for the future. We would encourage you to support Molly Gray as Vermont’s next Lieutenant Governor. She’s Vermont’s diamond in the rough.

by Emerson Lynn

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