by Rob Roper
Montpelier – On Wednesday, December 7, Randy Brock announced that he is running for governor of the State of Vermont. The Cedar Creek room in the State House, filled with anxious supporters, exploded in applause.
Indeed, Brock held the news close to his chest right up until the event. He had been mentioned as a possible candidate for Treasurer, for Congress, as well as Governor, and the possibility existed that he would simply run again for a third term representing Franklin County in the Senate (although that decision would probably not have warranted a Montpelier press conference). Not many in the room knew exactly what it was he would be announcing. “Governor” was clearly the decision they were hoping for.
Brock has long been a Republican Party favorite ever since he came on the scene in 2004 to run for and win the statewide race for Auditor of Accounts, unseating Democrat incumbent Liz Ready. In that race Brock demonstrated qualities that have come to characterize his political career — a dynamic speaker with a quick wit and an ability to cut right to the heart of an issue, as well as a willingness to fight hard for the principles and the policies he believes in. Brock was recently described by fellow Senator Bill Doyle as the best debater in the Senate.
Brock recognized in his announcement speech that this campaign to unseat a sitting governor, Peter Shumlin, will be a tough one. “Vermont loves its incumbents. But in thinking about this race, I had an epiphany. I recalled I’ve run four races, two for the senate, and two statewide races. In three of those races – 75 percent – and incumbent was defeated… unfortunately in one of those races, one of those incumbents was me,” he added to laughter and applause. Brock’s lesson learned: incumbents are not invulnerable, “especially when we have a governor who is so clearly on the wrong track.”
While Brock excites the Republican base, he actually sees himself as part of the “sensible” center. “I don’t think you can win in Vermont unless you appeal to Democrats and Independents and even the odd Progressive. I think it’s important to appeal to a broad spectrum and to be perceived, just as I mentioned, as the sensible center – the alternative to what we have.”
Asked for some examples of his centrist credentials, Brock cited the fact that he is considered pro-choice, although he does support parental notification for minors seeking abortions.
Brock sees a number of pathways for his campaign to make headway.
One, he believes that one-party rule in Montpelier is not a good idea, that many Vermonters also see it that way, and that many more will come to that conclusion after a second year of the Democrats holding supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature as well as the governorship. “I think increasingly people are going to be concerned about the lack of balance.”
Healthcare is another. “There is some dissatisfaction among a significant percentage of the population [about the direction the governor is taking with Green Mountain Care], but so many people really don’t know what it is. And, that’s probably the bigger problem right now: it’s hard to be satisfied with something when you really don’t totally understand it… This is perhaps the more important issue. The cloud of uncertainty, that it casts over our economic climate – you know, when businesses make decisions and new graduate of medical and dental schools decide where to go and to stake their lives, uncertainty is one of the biggest dangers to any economic decision…. We need much more clarity, and we need to remove the cloud of uncertainty.”
While he’s willing to stake out contrary positions to the governor on issues, Brock envisions a positive campaign. “Vermonters,” he recognizes, “really don’t like negative campaigns.” It’s a lesson Democratic Party Chairman Jake Perkinson has not learned. The Vermont Democrats’ first salvo states nastily, “Randy Brock was a failure as Auditor, has failed to distinguish himself as a State Senator, and will fail in his bid for Governor.”
Interestingly, the first person to come to Brock’s defense when this press release was posted on VTDigger.com was Representative Larry Townsend, a Democrat from Randolph, who posted, “I believe Senator Randy Brock is a good man. I look forward to a spirited debate on the issues next fall, but I never felt the best way to make yourself (the Democrats) look good is by trying to “run down” the other candidates! Just saying.”
Although it is always possible another Republican will come forward to challenge Brock in a primary, it’s hard to imagine who that person might be. Other names floated as potential candidates, like Tom Salmon and Brian Dubie gave statements of their support to Brock. Another rumored candidate, businessman Bruce Lisman, who recently launched the Campaign for Vermont, announced publicly that he is not running for anything.
The folks in the Cedar Creek room were ready for a campaign, but Brock insists there is work to be done before the confetti and balloons fall. “There’s a difficult legislative session right around the corner. And I was sent here by the people of Franklin County and Alburgh to represent them in the Vermont State Senate. So, my primary focus until the session concludes is to represent my constituents to the best of my ability. And, after the session ends, well, that’ll be the time for confetti and balloons.”
To see highlights of Brock’s announcement speech, click above
To see Gov. Jim Douglas’ endorsement speech, click above