MONTPELIER — Democratic Sen. John Rodgers is considering jumping into the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor to offer voters a moderate voice focused on affordability, energy and the state’s working landscape.
The 50-year-old Glover resident who represents the Essex-Orleans Senate district, told the Vermont Press Bureau Thursday he plans to make his decision near the end of the legislative session.
“I am still considering it,” Rodgers said. “I’m still on the fence for several reasons. It’s something I’m interested in and have sort of been interested in for some time.”
Rodgers would join Sen. David Zuckerman, D/P-Chittenden, Rep. Kesha Ram, D-Burlington, and Marlboro businessman Brandon Riker in a Democratic primary if he launches a campaign. Zuckerman and Ram have been aggressively raising money ahead of the mid-March campaign finance disclosure deadline. Riker has already contributed $60,000 to his own campaign.
Rodgers, who owns his own masonry company, said he is exploring how to maintain his business if he joins the race. A statewide campaign “does give me some reservations about my own financial well-being,” he said.
“The biggest consideration for me is how does it affect my life and my business, because unlike some of the other candidates, I’m not independently wealthy and don’t have family money,” he said. “The first thing is to look at the numbers and if that works out the way I think it will, I have to figure out how to keep up with work and keep up on my bills and not get behind.”
Rodgers is also looking back at past campaigns to see how past candidates have fared around the state.
“I’ve got some folks looking at numbers for me to lay out a path to how we get there,” he said. “I’m just going through past primary numbers and seeing where people typically vote in the primary and how the numbers have come out for other candidates that have run, and of course, looking at general election numbers as well.”
Part of his desire to run is based on the politics of the current candidates in the Democratic primary. He said he “absolutely” worries they are too liberal. Rodgers said he would look to bring a moderate approach to the office.
“What I worry about is someone getting into that position that over politicizes it. I think being a moderate I can do a similar job to the serving lieutenant governor. I have a record working with people from all parties to do things for all Vermonters. That’s what I would want to do, instead of what some people on the left and the right try to do, which is try to divide people,” he said.
Rodgers, who was born in Saint Johnsbury, was raised on his family’s dairy farm in Glover. He’s also worked in forestry and run his own construction business.
“I’ve done everything imaginable from building houses and barns to building bridges and large masonry projects,” he said. “When we’re discussing things in the Legislature a lot of people have to depend on the talking heads at the end of the table and I have a lot of experience with things Vermonters deal with every day.”
It’s that life experience that Rodgers believes will help him connect with Vermonters.
“I feel like because of the way I was raised, I have more in common with Vermonters than any of the other candidates,” he said. “I believe because of my experience, I’m a better candidate for the position than anybody else that’s currently in the race.”
Rodgers said the open seat also “makes it a little more interesting.” Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott is running for governor.
Should he enter the race, Rodgers, a member of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, said he would focus on revamping how the state sites energy projects to benefit Vermonters.
“I think that resonates with Vermonters from around the state who have been affected by bad projects that benefit the developers and help meet the renewable energy standards of other states,” Rodgers said. “One of my main focuses this year would be in changing the way we site energy in this state.”
Making the state more affordable for residents would be another theme, according to Rodgers. He said that was the reason he ran for the House 14 years ago. The state needs to attract more “good, solid manufacturing jobs,” he said.
“I think it’s becoming harder and harder for Vermonters to make ends meet as our taxes continue to grow faster than our incomes,” Rodgers said.
Additionally, Rodgers said he would focus on “making sure our working rural landscape is healthy and protected.”
Rodgers said he believes his message will resonate with Vermonters in all parts of the state.
“If I decide to get in I think I would have pretty broad support from Democrats, moderates, some moderate Republicans and certainly independents. So, that’s what I’m hoping for,” he said.
Raising funds is “always a concern in your fist statewide campaign,” Rodgers said, but believes he can run a grassroots campaign funded by “regular Vermonters.”
“I think that once people met me and heard my message that I could run a campaign sort of like how [Sen.] Bernie [Sanders] is running his national campaign and do it on small contributions from a lot of different Vermonters,” Rodgers said. “If I make the decision and go for it I think we’ll be fine and go for and raise enough money to run a solid campaign.”