MONTPELIER — Progressive Dean Corren says he is weighing a second bid for lieutenant governor in the 2016 election but will only do so if a case involving his last campaign and the state’s public financing for candidates is resolved in time.
Corren, a former state representative from Burlington, fared poorly in his 2014 bid to unseat Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. Scott received 62.1 percent of the vote to Corren’s 36 percent.
Scott is now considering a run for governor in 2016 after Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin announced in June that he would not seek a fourth, two-year term. Corren said he is considering a second run for the number two spot.
“I’m certainly interested and certainly considering it. It’s far too early to say anything definitely. But, we had a hell of a good run last time and it’s something we can potentially build on,” Corren said Wednesday.
The Progressive Party is currently speaking with potential candidates to run at the top of the ticket for governor. Corren, however, said he is more likely to run again for lieutenant governor.
“My focus has been mostly on lieutenant governor, to tell you the truth. The experience of the campaign, other than the result, was so positive with people around the state that it’s very encouraging,” he said.
A second campaign “would depend on pub financing,” however, according to Corren. He qualified for public financing and received about $180,000 combined for the primary and general election periods. But Corren has been sued by Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell for violating the state’s public financing law.
Sorrell alleged that Corren asked the Democratic Pary to send an email of support to about 19,000 people on the party’s email list. The email is considered a contribution to Corren, according to the lawsuit, that he was not allowed to solicit under the state’s public financing rules. The suit calls on Corren to return $52,000 in public financing funds that he had not yet spent at the time of the email.
The Vermont Democratic Party reached a settlement with Sorrell and agreed to pay up to a $10,000 fine for not disclosing the email as an expenditure.
Corren, however, has filed his own suit in federal court challenging Sorrell’s position. The first hearing on Corren’s lawsuit is scheduled for Aug. 31.
“The fact that this is still up in the air is a real problem for candidates,” Corren said. “It’s my hope that the federal court will act quickly in resolving it.”
Corren said public financing is “fundamental to democracy,” and his decision to run a second time for higher office will depend on the outcome of the court proceedings.
“I think many of us have moved past the era of big money,” he said. “It shouldn’t be controlled by private money.”
Corren said he will not be making any determination about his political future until he is able to begin the public financing process on Feb. 15. Corren said he is not personally inclined to make a decision until the, which he said is “a much more civilized period before the election.”
“Under the law you’re not really allowed to decide publicly until the public financing window opens,” Corren said, noting that it is “very likely” the court case will be resolved by then.
Corren said his decision will not be made based on whether Scott decides to run for lieutenant governor again, or whether anyone else jumps into the race. Democrat Brandon Riker, a 27-year-old from Windham County, has already declared his candidates and contributed about $60,000 to his own effort.
“His plans or the plans of anyone else wouldn’t come into play in any decision. It would just depend on the public issues, the public financing and family,” Corren said.
Corren said a second campaign would mirror the issues he raised in his first bid last year.
“There’s a focus on a number of issues. It never was just one issue to begin with. They’re all still there as far as energy and just basic economics working for regular vermonters. Growing the small, local economy is the way to go. It’s the way to go for Vermont,” he said.