by Guy Page
State House veteran Sen. Joseph Benning (R-Caledonia) will seek the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor – and so will conservative activist Greg Thayer of Rutland.
The lieutenant governor’s seat will be open for the second straight election. First-term incumbent Lt. Gov. Molly Gray is the early frontrunner in the three-way race for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Congress – a seat held by Rep. Peter Welch since 2006 but open because Welch is running (virtually unopposed, so far) for the Senate seat held since 1974 by retiring Patrick Leahy. In the race with Gray are Sen. Becca Balint (Windham) and Kesha Ram Hinsdale (Chittenden).
Thayer confirmed Saturday he is running for Lt. Governor. Benning told Vermont Daily Chronicle he’s running last week.
Benning and Thayer offer Republican voters a sharp contrast.
Benning, a Lyndon-based criminal defense lawyer, has been a state senator since 2011. He chairs the Senate Institutions Committee and has served as minority leader for the GOP caucus.
Thayer, a Rutland accountant, has never served under the Golden Dome. He is a former member of the Rutland City Council and has 35 years of civic and political experience in Rutland and statewide. He is the founder of Vermonters for Vermont, a grassroots organization opposing vaccine and mask mandates and teaching Critical Race Theory in schools.
Benning voted April 9, 2021 on the Senate floor in favor of Proposition 5, the proposed constitutional amendment to enshrine abortion in the Vermont Constitution. On the first of two crucial Senate votes on H57, the 2020 bill removing all restrictions on abortion, Benning voted yes. On the second, he voted no.
Thayer is a longtime, vocal opponent of legalized abortion. He attended and spoke briefly at the Vermont Right to Life Rally for Life Saturday.
Like Gov. Phil Scott, Benning was an outspoken critic of supposedly “extremist” Republicans who rode the Vermont bus to hear President Donald Trump’s Jan. 6 speech in Washington, D.C.. In an op-ed, he even wondered if any of them played a role in storming the Capitol building.
Thayer has participated in many subsequent grassroots events led by the bus trip organizer, Ellie Martin of Underhill.
On the Democratic side, longtime State House insider and centrist Rep. Charlie Kimbell of Woodstock and Vermont Council on Foreign Affairs Executive Director Patricia Preston have announced their plans to run for lieutenant governor. For LG’s David Zuckerman and Doug Racine both are considering getting their old job back, VT Digger reports.