MONTPELIER — Burlington Democratic Rep. Kesha Ram says she is running for lieutenant governor, creating a Democratic Party primary for the state’s number two office.
Ram, 29, joins 28-year-old Brandon Riker in the race, creating a youthful primary. The two are looking to replace Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott who is vacating the position and running for governor in 2016 election.
Ram has significantly more political experience in Vermont than Riker. She is in her fourth term representing the Chittenden 6-4 district in Burlington after winning her first term at the age of 22. Riker, on the other hand, has never held elected office at any level.
“In the last month or so I’ve been getting a lot of encouragement and feedback to consider running,” Ram said Monday.
A California native and University of Vermont graduate, Ram said she has “an eight-year track record of building consensus” in the House. And as public engagement specialist in Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger’s administration, Ram said she has been part of “difficult executive decisions.”
“I don’t shy away from a challenge and believe I am known as someone who is a strong connector and listener and I think that aligns well with the position of lieutenant governor,” she said. “I see the role as a connector-in-chief, as somebody who can bring various people together in the Legislature to find common ground, as well as spend time year-round bringing people to the table, holding summits, gathering feedback.”
River has already contributed about $60,000 to his own campaign, as well tens of thousands of dollars from family. Ram said she won’t be matching Riker’s personal contributions, but is already seeing strong financial support.
“I’m not independently wealthy, and like many Vermonters I rely on a paycheck to get by, but I am already seeing a lot of early support, both in terms of people power and finances,” she said.
Ram said her tenure in the House has been productive, helping to advance home ownership and civil rights issues and supporting women in the work place.
“I have really enjoyed my time in the House and obviously still have work I could continue to do. I really feel like I was able to leave my mark,” she said. “For me it felt like it was time to take on a new challenge. This seemed like the right time.”
Ram said she has projects underway at her job in Weinberger’s administration that wants to complete. Eventually she begin a transition from that role, she said.
“We’ll have to make a decision about when it’s in the best interests of Burlington stakeholders to have someone that is able to bring new vigor and energy to this role,” she said.
Ram said she has successfully managed any conflicts with her job as a legislator and will bring “that same sensitivity to this as a I make a transition.”
Former Republican lawmaker Stub Earle, who was recently highlighted by WCAX as a “super senior,” will serve as Ram’s campaign treasurer. She referred to Earle as “quite a legend”
“It meant a lot to me to be anchored with support from folks from a past political generation,” she said.
Brandon Batham, chairman of the Windham County Democratic Party, will run Ram’s campaign. He previously managed Windham County Sen. Becca Balint’s legislative campaign.
An official campaign kick-off event will be held on Oct. 26 at Burlington’s Main Street Landing. Former Democratic Gov. Madeleine Kunin will be a featured speaker.
Republican Randy Brock, a former state auditor and senator from Franklin County, has announced he is running. Fellow Republicans Scott Milne and Joe Benning say they are also considering joining the race.