Editorial: Molly Gray for Lieutenant Governor

What makes Molly Gray such an appealing candidate for lieutenant governor is the freshness of her voice, her energetic enthusiasm, a determined drive and her unabashed love of the state. As a political novice but entrenched in the duties of upholding Vermont’s laws, she comes from outside the inner circles of the Legislature or any gubernatorial administration, and offers the hope and aspirations of those seeking positive change with new voices in the room.

“If we have the same people at the table, we get the same outcomes,” she said in an editorial board meeting with the Addison Independent last week. Among her motivations for running is to bring Vermont “out of the past and into the future” propelled by new voices she has seen working hard in their communities and making real progress.

“There are young professional groups in towns like Bennington, Rutland, Woodstock and many others who are problem-solving in their communities right now,” she said, adding that her campaign has been tapping into those ideas and energy, building new solutions to long-term problems.  “We’re doing it,“ the former UVM Nordic skier and daughter of a farm family in Newbury, said of her campaign and the enthusiasm she has found among these groups of young entrepreneurs. She hopes to use the Lt. Governor’s office to amplify those ideas and energy to build engagement and make government accessible to them.

Gray’s energy is infectious, and her political views are articulated without a touch of cynicism or self-aggrandizement — a welcome change from the current times. But she also is thoroughly versed in Vermont’s political past, its challenges and the reality of how hard it is to make positive change.

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Gray, now 36, serves as Vermont’s Assistant Attorney General and teaches night classes at the University of Vermont Law School, where she received her law degree. She had previously worked on the staff of Rep. Peter Welch in Washington, D.C., and was a law clerk to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Peter Hall. Not content to focus all her energy close to home, she strode out into the world to work abroad for the International Committee of the Red Cross and on global initiatives centered on human rights throughout the developing world.

By applying her talents, education and training to state, national and worldwide affairs, she has become that rare candidate with a well-rounded understanding of the world and Vermont’s place in it.

She also has a unique background and qualifications that bolster her candidacy.

She was raised on her parent’s vegetable, fruit and dairy farm in Newbury — a farm that is still operated by her parents and a brother. Working alongside her family on that farm growing up, she appreciates the hard work and pure grit it takes to get ahead, and understands the issues of Vermont’s family farmers on that very personal level.

She has demonstrated personal strength and perseverance as a Nordic skier with UVM’s Division 1 ski team, earning a place on that elite program via an athletic scholarship. It’s a sport that demands maximum physical exertion and mental toughness, and one that also embraces a love of Vermont’s winters. It’s a love that runs deep. Her dad competed in the 1968 and 1972 Winter Olympics and her mother was a former U.S. alpine skier.

Nor is Ms. Gray a complete stranger to Vermont politics. Her uncle, Bill Gray, a former U.S. Attorney in Vermont, made a senatorial bid as a Democrat against Sen. James Jeffords in 1988. Gray has said her uncle was a great influence in her life and career path.

It’s no surprise that Ms. Gray’s positions on the main issues confronting the state are spot on, representing a pragmatic and centralist position:

 • She considers the state’s crippling demographics — with its youth fleeing and Vermont’s aging population rising to one in four over the next few years — as one of the biggest challenges to tackle.

• She recognizes the need to solve the state’s childcare problem—both lack of access and cost—and the need for more affordable housing.

• She embraces Vermont’s dairy heritage, but understands the need to accept the economic realities around milk prices and help smaller farms move into value-added endeavors.

• Improving broadband and telecommunications throughout the state is more of a priority for Gray than ever in the Covid-19 era, making it essential that all households have the ability to telecommute with their schools, doctors and work environments.

• On education, Gray would push to ensure more Vermonters could attend higher education without incurring long-term debt, and provide greater incentives and opportunities for Vermont’s high school graduates to pursue workforce development for the many trades that provide good paying jobs.

• She’s a proponent of promoting the green economy and would push to make the state more energy independent, while creating new jobs.

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While Ms. Gray has not held public office previously, accolades by past and current political leaders speak highly of her step into the political limelight, including from former Gov. Peter Shumlin and Gov. Madeleine Kunin, and many business leaders.

 “Molly is the most exciting candidate to surface on the Vermont landscape in a long time,” said former Gov. Peter Shumlin in his endorsement of her. “She represents a generation of new leaders we need now more than ever...”

Added former Gov. Madeleine Kunin: “She knows firsthand the challenges facing communities across the state and is uniquely qualified to address them. Molly is the face of the next generation of Vermont leaders.”

And this endorsement from Vergennes Mayor Jeff Fritz: “Perhaps now, more than any other time, Vermonters need to consider a new way of thinking, a new strategy, to bravely move forward in our new reality. We need vocal and creative leadership to confront the issues that are the core of our values: paid family leave, equal access to housing, the elimination of food insecurity, as well as infrastructure that can support the economic future of our Brave Little State. I believe Molly Gray is that kind of visionary...”

We add our voice to that chorus.

Ms. Gray has a vision of hope and progress for the state that exudes confidence and has the potential to inspire a new generation of leaders. It’s a vision that seeks to take the state to new heights, not just to slow its decline. And it’s a vision that taps into the energy of a whole group of younger people not yet at table, but who passionately love the state and want to see it reach its fuller potential.

In the Democratic primary, set for Aug. 11 at local polls but anytime via mail-in ballots, a vote for Ms. Gray is a vote for Vermont’s future.

Angelo Lynn

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