House Minority Leader Don Turner had planned to leave his seat in the Legislature this year. Now, he’s eyeing a return to Montpelier only this time in a new office.
Turner, a Milton Republican, confirmed Wednesday afternoon that he will run for lieutenant governor.
“With the big divide going on in the state, you know, within our party and with the governor I felt it was important to step up,” Turner said.
At a time when legislative leadership and the governor’s office are on opposite sides of the aisle, Turner said he sees potential for the lieutenant governor to be a bridge between the two.
“I wanted to bring balance to the Statehouse and I think that the lieutenant governor’s role can do that,” he said.
During Republican Gov. Jim Douglas’ administration, Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, also a Republican, helped the governor build relationships in the Legislature, Turner said. He said he discussed his decision briefly with Gov. Phil Scott last week.
Turner said he decided to run for lieutenant governor because, unlike most statewide offices, it is a part-time job. That will enable him to continue his work as town manager of Milton.
“At this point I’m going to take this challenge,” Turner said. “It’s a big challenge.”
Turner, a representative since 2006 and House minority leader since 2011, said he was growing weary of the position. There were aspects of the role that he “was not enjoying” as much, he said.
“I want to leave on a note where I was respected, and for me that was leaving at a time when I could say I walked out with my head high.”
Turner had not yet filed his paperwork. He expects to do so Thursday. He described the interest supporters have expressed in signing his petition as “overwhelming.”
“This is my main focus,” Turner said, gesturing to the Statehouse, where just minutes earlier Republicans had blocked a procedural motion that would have advanced a Democrat-backed plan to partially resolve a stalemate over state finance.
Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman said Wednesday he had been expecting to face an opponent when he ran for a second term.
“I have plenty of respect for Don,” Zuckerman said. “I’m sure it’ll be a positive issue-based campaign.”
He said the choice will be up to voters, and he is optimistic.
“I think they will show that they’ve been pleased with my work,” he said.
This article originally appeared in VTDigger May 30, 2018.