Longtime clean water advocate and liberal firebrand James Ehlers is running for governor in 2018, when he hopes to unseat Republican incumbent Phil Scott in a race that will feature stark ideological contrasts between the two candidates.
Ehlers, who’s running as a Democrat, says it’s too early to outline the key planks of his campaign platform. But the executive director of Lake Champlain International, who’s long called for greater public investments in government programs, says the differences between him and the first-term incumbent will soon become readily apparent.
“The attitude and the culture of the campaign will be one that offers people a fundamentally different choice in philosophy,” Ehlers said in a telephone interview Thursday.
Ehlers has most recently criticized Scott for failing to identify a long-term source of public revenues for a water quality initiative expected to cost more than $1 billion over the next 20 years.
Ehlers says his campaign will try to galvanize the public buy-in he thinks is needed to improve environmental and economic conditions in the state.
“I guess I would say it’s a modern day barn raising of sorts, where we all come together to invest in our homes, our forests, our rivers, our lakes, as well as Main Street,” Ehlers says.
Ehlers has never before run for political office, but he says it’s time to expand his advocacy beyond the environmental issues he’s been working on for 20 years.
‘It seems like it’s time … for me to take my skills and leadership ability and advocate for Vermonters on all the issues that are impacting us and our children,” Ehlers says.
Asked about Ehlers’ announcement Thursday, Scott said he intends to seek a second term in office, but isn’t ready to begin talking about the campaign.
“It’s a long time between now and then,” Scott said.