BURLINGTON — Kesha Ram is making a bid to be Vermont’s first millennial lieutenant governor.
The 29-year-old Democratic representative faced a crowd of cheering supporters when she formally kicked off her campaign for the second-highest office in the state Monday night in downtown Burlington.
“Eight years ago, so many of you began this journey with me,” Ram said, recalling the start of the Great Recession in 2007. “We were a generation in need of a voice in the Legislature.”
The California native and magna cum laude graduate of the University of Vermont with degrees in political science and natural resource planning has been a rising star in the state Democratic Party since first winning the Chittenden 6-4 district seat in the Vermont House at the age of 22.
Now in the middle of her fourth term, she is the clerk of the House Committee on Natural Resources and Energy. During the last legislative session, she sponsored a bill criminalizing “revenge porn” — the malicious sharing of intimate photos — and another calling for oversight in the distribution of military equipment to domestic law enforcement agencies. Both bills passed.
Ram recalled her early days as an elected representative when, according to her, people would refer to her derisively as a “kitten with lipstick.”
“I might still be called a kitten with lipstick, but we will not be underestimated,” Ram told the cheering crowd.
At the municipal level, she is the public engagement specialist for Burlington’s Community and Economic Development Office. Previously, she was the legal director for Women Helping Battered Women, where she assisted victims of domestic violence in the courtroom.
Ram pledged to “build consensus through action and be an advocate for the people” as she outlined a plan calling for expanded pre-kindergarten, free college for Vermont residents, and policies to promote affordable homeownership and the expansion of high-speed Internet to everyone in the state.
Ram’s candidacy sets up a Democratic primary between her and another member of the millennial generation: 28-year-old Marlboro resident Brandon Riker, who is running for elected office for the first time.
Either one would be the youngest lieutenant governor in state history. The record is held by Brian Burns, who was 35 when he was sworn into office — serving under Gov. Thomas Salmon — in 1975.
Ram is the third candidate to enter the race for lieutenant governor. Randy Brock is running as a Republican.
While Ram might be well known in Burlington, she’ll have work to do to make inroads with voters throughout the rest of the state. Rep. William Botzow, D-Pownal, who serves with Ram on the UVM board of trustees, called Ram a “champion of diversity” and praised her work ethic.
“She is part of the ‘first in, last out’ crew,” Botzow said.
Former Gov. Madeleine Kunin, who had also been on hand for the gubernatorial kickoff event for Sue Minter, spoke in support of Ram’s candidacy.
“She cares about not just the people at the table, but the people knocking on the door, waiting to be heard,” Kunin said. “People might ask, ‘Two women? Can we do that?’ Since 1776, no one has ever questioned two men.”