By Anne Galloway, VTDigger.org
Shap Smith, the longtime speaker of the Vermont house of representatives, formally launched his campaign for governor on Wednesday, Aug. 19, in his hometown, Morrisville. He is the first candidate among a large field of “maybes” to declare a bid for governor.
Smith used the former Arthur’s Department Store, which has been transformed into affordable housing units and retail space, as the venue for his kick-off speech about a new “state of opportunity.”
Smith, 49, has presided over the House of Representatives since 2009, and he bills himself as a “pragmatic progressive” who “gets things done.” Smith is an insurance litigator for Dinse Knapp McAndrew in Burlington.
Smith told the friendly audience of about 100 lawmakers, well-wishers and family members that he understands the struggles of Vermonters who are trying to make a living; as governor, he promised, he would work together with communities to “reinvest and reinvigorate” the state’s economy.
“Our state government needs to be an active partner in supporting vibrant and livable downtowns, because we know that strengthening local economies will be what attracts young people and keeps them here,” Smith declared. “As governor, I want our state to be the state of opportunity–for entrepreneurs to grow jobs here, for hard working families, and for our young people. I am confident I can hit the ground running from day one to carry out this vision for Vermont.”
Among Smith’s proudest accomplishments are leading Vermont as the first state in the country to legislate marriage equality while house speaker, supporting policies to help middle class families get ahead, advocating for quality education, and promoting economic development and entrepreneurship in the state.
Chairs of key committees—Reps. Tony Klein, Janet Ancel, Donna Sweaney, Helen Head, Alice Emmons, Ann Pugh, David Sharpe—all turned out for the announcement.
Google executive Matt Dunne and Transportation Secretary Sue Minter are expected to announce whether they will run for governor in the next few weeks. Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, will decide after Labor Day. It’s not clear when Bruce Lisman, a native Vermonter and former Wall Street executive, might make his move, but he has been publicly mulling his run in Facebook posts.
Smith is now actively campaigning and recruiting volunteers. Two experienced campaign staff have been hired. Liz Sortino will serve as campaign manager. Selene Hofer-Shall has been hired as an operations consultant.
A long-time Vermonter, Smith attended the local public high school, People’s Academy, and the University of Vermont. He received a law degree from Indiana University. He and his wife, Melissa, have two children, Eli and Mia. He has served as speaker of the house since 2009.
His wife, Melissa Volansky, is a family physician, who introduced him as “the hardest working man in politics.”