Phil Scott seeks 5th term as governor

A man wearing a suit is giving a speech at a press conference.
Gov. Phil Scott speaks during his weekly press conference at the Statehouse in Montpelier on Wednesday, April 3, 2024. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Updated at 7:07 pm

Governor Phil Scott isn't ready to hang up his hat.

In a press release issued Saturday evening, the four-term Republican governor announced he will seek another two-year term in this year's election cycle.

In a statement, Scott, who has held the position since 2017, said, “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. Have worked for. I have tried my best to rise above partisanship to solve problems and help people.”

He added, “Although we have made progress over the past few years, we still have more work to do. “But to do that, we need more balance in the Legislature.”

Throughout his political career, the 65-year-old Berlin resident has cemented his position as a moderate Republican. As governor, he has consistently trumpeted low taxes and fiscal conservatism, while generally taking a liberal stance 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 in 2016, his office has touted his popularity among Vermont voters, despite the state's politically blue composition. In fact, polls have consistently shown that Scott's largest base of support is 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. The last election, Scott won by his largest margin to date, receiving 71% of the vote.

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.

If Scott wins this summer's Republican primary and November's general election, he will secure one of the longest gubernatorial tenures in recent state history. (There are no term limits for governors in Vermont.) In the decade of Scott's tenure, only former Governor Howard Dean, a Democrat, held the seat for nearly 12 years.

Ironically, Scott may face Dean this fall. The former governor and Democratic National Committee chairman is attempting a political comeback and has publicly considered running for Scott's seat. Esther Charlestin, a Democrat and former school administrator who emphasized the racism she experienced at Middlebury Middle School, had already announced her candidacy for the race in January.

Scott's position in Vermont's minority party – first as a legislator, then as a statewide office holder – has shaped his political career.

The Governor emphasized that position in his re-election announcement, saying, “I have realized that I cannot step down from office at a time when Vermont's Legislature is so far out of balance.”

This is a dynamic that has particularly increased in recent years as Democrats have gained more seats in the Vermont Legislature. In 2022, he passed the two-thirds threshold needed to override a gubernatorial veto.

As a result, House and Senate leadership have been emboldened in recent legislative sessions to pass bills despite the Governor's objections. Scott, for his part, has not been shy about using his veto power and issued a record number of vetoes during his years in top office.

This is a pattern that has, at times, soured the governor's relationship with the legislative branch. In recent months, Scott has consistently blamed the Legislature for not listening to his policy proposals, or for walking away from the bargaining table, knowing he had the votes to override a potential veto.

Legislators have responded with allegations that Scott and his administrators do not engage in good faith negotiations, or provide part-time legislators with the policy expertise available to full-time executive branch staff.

In recent months, Scott has stuck to a common refrain when speaking to reporters about the legislation he is opposing: that he only has “one vote.”

Pressed for weeks by reporters about his election plans, Scott demurred. He said he would wait to announce a campaign until state legislators adjourn their 2024 session and the political heat in Montpelier subsides. The lawmakers resigned on Saturday morning itself.

Scott is the last statewide incumbent to announce that he will run for re-election. Following a cycle of heavy turnover in Vermont's statewide offices in 2022, all of the state's incumbents for both congressional and state executive offices have announced they are planning to run again.

The deadline for major party candidates to apply to run is May 30. Primary elections to choose the party's candidates are on August 13.

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