Nonprofit boss in lieutenant governor bid

Published: 1/11/2022 9:44:40 PM
Modified: 1/11/2022 9:43:47 PM

The race for lieutenant governor of Vermont has begun.

Patricia Preston, executive director of the Vermont Council on World Affairs, announced Monday that she’ll seek the Democratic nomination for the state’s No. 2 post. She joins Rep. Charlie Kimbell, D-Woodstock, in their party’s primary.

A top Republican legislator also appears poised to enter the race.

Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, on Sunday invited news organizations throughout the state to a Jan. 17 event titled, “Joe Benning for Lt. Governor.” He did not immediately return calls for comment Monday afternoon.

Benning would be the first Republican to declare his or her candidacy.

The lieutenant governor’s office is opening up because incumbent Democrat Molly Gray is vacating her position to run for Vermont’s lone seat in the U.S. House. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., meanwhile, is seeking to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

Preston, 36, grew up on a fourth-generation dairy farm in Orange County and earned her bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the University of Vermont. She currently lives in Burlington. Before joining the Vermont Council on World Affairs in 2014, she taught and developed curricula in Tanzania and Guatemala.

Reflecting on attending Town Meeting with her grandfather in Randolph Center as a child, Preston told VTDigger in a Monday interview that she’s had ambitions for public service for a long time.

COVID has forced Vermont to “a critical inflection point,” she said, “which has heightened (her) motivation and commitment to serve.”

“Our health system remains inadequate and unaffordable; affordable childcare opportunities are lacking; and our rural communities like Randolph Center are struggling, and they’re being left behind in a lot of ways and cut out of the progress and prosperity that every Vermonter deserves,” she said. “I’m running for lieutenant governor because I want to make progress on these issues and ensure that all generations of Vermonters and their families feel supported and are healthy and are given an equal opportunity to thrive.”

Unlike her opponents, Preston has not served in the state Legislature, but she pointed to her experience working on statewide issues with the public and private sectors at the Council on World Affairs, an organization founded in 1952 and formerly associated with UVM that hosts international visitors and educational events in Vermont.

“There are so many successful paths to office and, in my experience, working with nonprofits and building economic opportunity, and growing up with parents running a small business in rural Vermont,” she said. “Yeah, I’m not coming from the Legislature, but I am uniquely positioned to understand the issues that face the state.”

The lieutenant governor’s office has a reputation as a stepping stone to higher office, but Preston said she’s “completely and totally focused on this campaign.”




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