The coronavirus has upended the way we learn about candidates running for office. We’re limited in being able to talk to them directly. There are no crowds, which subtract from the energy. Most Vermonters are singularly focused on surviving; parsing through a candidate’s positions takes a second seat to a troubling landscape that seems to change day-to-day.

That’s unfortunate in that it allows inertia to govern at a time when we need new ideas and leaders with high levels of unquestioned competence.

A week from tomorrow — August 11 — those Vermonters who have not already voted will step into the booth and cast a ballot in the Democratic primary for governor. Among the slew of contenders are two names on the ballot that lead the rest: David Zuckerman and Rebecca Holcombe.

By almost any measure Ms. Holcombe is the better choice.

Mr. Zuckerman is where he is because he is Lieutenant Governor and thus enjoys the accompanying name recognition. But he has added little to the debate beyond what we already know about him; he carries on his shoulders a campaign platform that is no different today than it was a decade ago. There are no fresh ideas. No energy to discover new things.

His early political hopes rode on Covid-19 allowing him to slide through the primary unchallenged.

But Ms. Holcombe has challenged him and on the money-raising front has essentially met him dollar-for-dollar. Part of her success is that she is a main line Democrat whereas Mr. Zuckerman is a progressive. But only a small part. The biggest reason for her success is that she has ideas and she knows of what she speaks. She’s uncommonly smart and integrity oozes from her every pore. She doesn’t take the politically correct way when addressing the many intractable issues before us, she fights for answers that have the best chance of providing the necessary result.

This is not a debatable point. Act 46, the state’s school consolidation law, was passed during her stint as Vermont’s Secretary of Education. It was arguably the most contentious piece of legislation Vermont has seen in the last decade. She handled it masterfully and for two reasons: she knows more about education than almost anyone else, and she knows our schools and our communities. Both reasons established the underlying trust she used to push the law forward and to work with communities to help them find their own solutions.

There is no part of Vermont more vital to us than education — preK through higher ed — it is a given that between Ms. Holcombe and Mr. Zuckerman, the future of our schools, and education writ-large, is best addressed by Ms. Holcombe.

A second example of her leadership was provided last week when Ms. Holcombe and Mr. Zuckerman sparred over the future of health care in Vermont. Mr. Zuckerman made the predictable retreat of the need to push for a single payer health care system. Ms. Holcombe wants to push ahead with the state’s all payer model, which changes the way we pay doctors and hospitals, focusing on prevention, not sickness.

There is no real risk to Mr. Zuckerman’s position because, at this point, it’s almost background noise. No one pays attention because it’s not achievable. It allows him to tell people he wants to lower health care costs and provide everyone care without explaining how. Vermont doesn’t have the means to move to a single payer system as former Gov. Peter Shumln learned the hard way. Mr. Zuckerman ducks the issue.

Ms. Holcombe’s approach is the more difficult politically because the all payer model is complicated and the results are long in being realized. It’s an investment without an immediate return, which, in the world of politics, is problematic. Again, her approach is the honest one. Tough as it is.

Ms. Holcombe has taken the same approach with issues of ethics, the green economy and our demographic challenges. Mr. Zuckerman has not.

The winner of next Tuesday’s race between Mr. Zuckerman and Ms. Holcombe will take on Gov. Phil Scott, a formidable candidate. In the interest of having a debate that produces the highest level debate, we encourage voters to pick Ms. Holcombe.

by Emerson Lynn

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