MONTPELIER — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith and Sen. David Zuckerman, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, have the early advantage in netting endorsements from the Vermont State Employees Association after the union’s legislative committee voted to recommend them to the Board of Trustees and the full membership.
The union’s 23-member legislative committee voted Tuesday to recommend Galbraith, a former diplomat and state senator from Windham County, for governor in the Democratic primary over Matt Dunne and Sue Minter. Sen. David Zuckerman, who represents Chittenden County as a Progressive and Democrat, was selected by the panel for lieutenant governor over House Speaker Shap Smith and Burlington Rep. Kesha ram.
The committee’s recommendation is the first step in the union’s new endorsement process. The VSEA’s full membership of about 5,500 state workers now has until June 6 to vote in a non-binding online straw poll, which will help the union’s Board of Trustees select candidates to be endorsed by the group, according to VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard. The VSEA Council, a 150-member panel that meets quarterly, will then look to ratify that decision or reject it by a two-thirds majority vote.
“For the first time our members are going to be weighing in all across the state by voting by electronic ballot who they think we should endorse,” Howard said.
According to Howard, the panel supports all six Democratic candidates for the state’s top two elected posts, but came to a consensus on recommending Galbraith and Zuckerman. That recommendation could be disregarded by the time the Board of Trustees makes its endorsements official on June 7, however.
“The endorsement at the end could look very different from what the legislative committee recommended yesterday,” Howard said.
Both Zuckerman and Galbraith said they were informed Tuesday evening of the legislative committee’s selection and see it has a positive step toward gaining the union’s endorsement.
“It’s a good signal, I think, to the VSEA members about my role supporting our state workers over my years of service,” Zuckerman said. “I certainly have stood with workers when in various negotiations with the administration around the bargaining process to make sure our state workers are fairly compensated for the services they provide.”
Galbraith said Wednesday morning he had a “somewhat elevated feeling after VSEA President Dave Bellini told him of the committee’s vote Tuesday.
“Clearly, to have the endorsement of the legislative committing making the recommendation to members is a leg up,” Galbraith said. “I’m hoping that the members will look at the reasons the legislative committee made the recommendation.”
Zuckerman said the committee based its decisions on a “pretty extensive survey” candidates filled out. In his responses Zuckerman said he highlighted the way he has supported state workers during his many years as a legislator, including opposing the privatization of the state’s risk management office during the recent legislative session.
“We had a vote in the Senate this year with respect to the risk management division and I voted to keep that in house and not privatize it,” he said.
Galbraith said the committee liked his simple, three-letter answer on the survey where it asked if state work should be performed by state workers — “yes,” he wrote.
“Some of the others were rather lengthy explanations,” Galbraith said. “I was the person who said very, very clearly that the quality of life in Vermont depends on the quality public services and they depend on the work that is done by state employees and that needs to be adequately funded.”
In addition, the legislative committee recommended Democratic State Treasurer Beth Pearce, who faces a primary challenge from Richard Dunne, and Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan for attorney general. The committee chose not to weigh in on the GOP primary for governor, but Howard said the Board of Trustees will likely make an endorsement.
This post was updated at 3:30 p.m. on June 1 to include additional information.