Vermont Republicans will select a new party chairman Saturday after current chairman Jack Lindley announced he wouldn’t be running again.
The race for the position has heated up in the past week as party leaders have backed different candidates. The two candidates vying for the position are David Sunderland and John MacGovern.
Lt. Governor Phil Scott announced earlier this week he’s backing former state legislator David Sunderland for the position. Sunderland served Rutland Town at the same time Scott was in the legislature.
“I’m hopeful that Dave and his team will be in place. That it will mark the day that we move forward, that with different backgrounds we can agree to the same principles within the party,” Scott said.
But principles within the party already appear to be split. John MacGovern, who ran for the US Senate against Bernie Sanders in 2012, received endorsements from Lindley and Vermont GOP treasurer Mark Snelling.
“I think there’s some issues I think the Vermont Republican party should be independent of any political office holder. Whether it’s the Governor or Lt. Governor,” Snelling said.
For Snelling the issue is the voice of the Republican Party. He says Scott has not been vocal enough about key issues, such as the roll out of Vermont Health Connect and the Single Payer System.
“That message needs to get out and it isn’t being shouted from the treetops by the Lt. Governor. I’ve personally encouraged him to do so. He’s in charge of his operation and he’s doing it the way he thinks best,” Snelling said
Scott noted the clear reality for Republicans at this point. With Democrats holding a strong majority in the Senate and House, he says Republicans need to work on finding an area to agree with Democrats.
“I know that we’ve turned into a fairly blue state but I think that the areas that we agree upon about fiscal responsibility, limited government, and independence are still there and I think that we can make some inroads there,” Scott said.
Finding common ground is where Scott sees an advantage for Sunderland. He says he didn’t always agree with Sunderland when they were both state legislators but Scott says that Sunderland’s ability to churn out an agreement was key in getting his endorsement.
“There’s a very big difference between the two candidates,” Scott said.
“And I think Dave (Sunderland) is someone that is objective. He’s somebody that really looks at the big picture and I think can attract a wider audience.”
Both Snelling and Scott believe Saturday’s selection will send a clear message to Vermonters about the direction of the Republican party, although they’ll have to wait until then to find out what it is.