BENNINGTON -- A Democrat from Bennington County is endorsing a Republican for lieutenant governor, a move he says is in the interest of keeping the government balanced.
Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, endorsed Lt. Gov. Phil Scott's bid for reelection on Friday. Scott, a Republican, represented Washington County in the state senate for five terms and was elected to his current post in 2010.
"I've known Phil for 14 years, we've worked well together in the senate," said Sears. "When he was a state senator he helped us numerous times in Bennington as chair of the Institutions Committee and as a member of (The Transportation Committee)."
He said Scott has used the lieutenant governor role to push for economic development.
"Quite frankly, that's not the only reason, the other reason is, I'm looking for balance in the leadership," Sears said.
Democrats currently control both houses of the legislature as well as the governor's office.
Scott has been able to bridge many political divides in the past, and while Sears' endorsement of a Republican is unusual, he said it's the kind of politics that's good for Vermont.
"There's little likelihood that Republicans will take over control of the House or Senate, and little likelihood they'll be taking over the governor's office," Sears said. "I think it's important for Vermont to have some balance, somebody who stands up and says, ‘I think we ought to look at it a different way.
Having disagreement or another approach when it comes to policy has typically been helpful for the final product.
"If they did this in Washington a little more often, things might be a little better down there," said Sears.
Scott said he wants to see the legislature and governor's office work toward the common goal of improving the economy. "If we want to build and grow Vermont in a positive way, we have to do things differently," he said.
He said he does not see where many programs can be cut, or that Vermonters can be taxed any more than they are. Young people leaving the state means business has to grow to increase revenues.
"I think the first thing we have to do is to get leadership in both the house and the senate, and the administration, to be honest, to buy in to having this the focus of the next two years, having this be on the front burner of any legislation that we take up," said Scott. "And if you have every committee that takes a look at that, and asks themselves when they're taking up different issues whether this will help the economy in some way, I think that's powerful."
Scott is not facing a primary challenger, but Marina Brown, of Charleston, is running with the Liberty Union party, and Dean Corren, of Burlington, is running as a Progressive.
Few people are aware of the lieutenant governor's role in government, said Scott. Constitutionally, the holder of the office's only duties are to stand in for the governor when he is out of state or otherwise incapacitated, cast tie-breaking votes in the senate, and preside over the senate.
Unlike many states, the office is elected independently from the governor.
Scott said he has used the office to promote the growth of business Vermont, to handle issues individual citizens have, and to be something of a political peacemaker. Scott also serves in Gov. Peter Shumlin's cabinet, despite not being endorsed by the governor.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.