Shumlin Hopes To Keep Progressive Support

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(Host) Governor Peter Shumlin will meet with Vermont’s Progressive leaders this weekend to help strengthen his relationship with the party.

Many Progressives backed Shumlin in the 2010 gubernatorial contest and he’s hoping to keep their support in the 2012 election.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The Progressives made a key decision in last year’s gubernatorial race. They chose not to run their own candidate and many Party members threw their support to Democrat Peter Shumlin.

Shumlin was elected by a narrow margin, roughly 4300 votes, and it’s likely that if a Progressive candidate had been in the race, Republican Brian Dubie would have won.

This weekend, Shumlin will speak to Progressive leaders at a state committee meeting in Rutland. Martha Abbott is the chair of the Party.  She says it marks the first time that a governor has spoken at a Progressive event.

Abbott says Progressives are pleased with their collaboration with Shumlin because he delivered on the Party’s top two legislative priorities; working towards a single payer health care system and shutting down Vermont Yankee:

(Abbott) "We’re very pleased that he continued to press those issues with the Legislature and that things have moved forward and I would say we’re feeling very good about our collaboration and there are some additional issues that we wish to pursue and hopefully the collaboration will continue on both sides."

(Kinzel) Abbott says Progressives are more interested in making progress on key policy issues than running their own statewide candidates. So if Shumlin delivers again, it’s likely that the Progressives will support his re-election:

(Abbott) "If our issues are going to be advanced by Governor Shumlin and the Democratic leadership that is fine. We will consider ourselves to have won if those issues are advanced by those folks."

(Host) Shumlin says he asked to speak to the Progressives because he thinks it makes a lot of sense for the two parties to work together:

(Shumlin) "You know I’ve always been puzzled by the division in Vermont between Democrats and Progressives. We agree on almost all policy issues and I hope as Governor that I can help bring together the Progressive and Democratic elements of the state so that we work together to try and make real change."

(Kinzel) Retired Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis says strong Progressive support is a big asset to Shumlin in 2012:

(Davis) "More importantly to keep the Progressive activists working enthusiastically for him during the campaign particularly when some of those activists may have some reservations about some other Democratic candidates, President Obama for example, to have Progressive activists solidly in the camp of the Democratic campaign for governor will help in terms of maintaining enthusiasm for that campaign next Fall."

(Kinzel) Shumlin and the Progressives are also expected to discuss ways to reform the state’s tax system to make it fairer for middle income Vermonters.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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