Name: Molly Gray
Running for: Lieutenant Governor
What examples of leadership in the public interest can you cite from your past?
I’ve spent my career serving our state and fighting for the public interest, specifically human rights, justice, and equity across the globe and here in Vermont. In 2006, I worked to elect Representative Peter Welch and moved to Washington to serve Vermonters as a Congressional aide in his office. At the height of the Iraq war while my younger brother was deployed, I worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to help promote adequate humanitarian assistance and the humane treatment of detainees at Guantanamo. I spent 3 years engaging the U.S. government on humanitarian response and leading field missions into Haiti, Uganda, Georgia, the Western Balkans and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Like many of my generation, I returned home to Vermont to be closer to family and to build a life and career. I attended Vermont Law School while bartending nights at the Worthy Burger in South Royalton. After law school, I worked in Rutland as a law clerk to Vermont’s judge to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the Honorable Peter W. Hall. Because of my background and prior work, I was recruited to support the U.S. Government and the international community in launching the International Code of Conduct Association; the first global initiative mandated to oversee the compliance of private security contractors with human rights. I led human rights monitoring missions in East Africa, Nigeria and Iraq. Today, I work statewide as an Assistant Attorney General, where I bring my unique background to my criminal justice work. I also teach night classes at Vermont Law School where I train the next generation of lawyers and leaders on human rights.
What are your top three priorities and how do they benefit the public?
Paid Family and Medical Leave – We need paid family and medical leave to close the pay gap, grow our workforce and ensure every worker can pay the bills and care for loved ones.
Broadband – In my hometown of Newbury, one in three children don’t have access to the internet, which is critical for access to remote work and education, telemedicine, and public information.
Energy independence – I will work to mitigate the harmful impact of climate change on our communities and lead an equitable transition to a clean energy economy.
Describe your plans to address the following problems in Vermont:
The Climate Crisis
We need to take bold action on climate now. Climate change is the greatest threat to everything that makes Vermont so special, and climate action represents the greatest economic opportunity of our time. I support policies such as the Transportation Climate Initiative and the Global Warming Solutions Act, which hold our government and private companies accountable and invest directly into our communities. In order to build climate resilient communities, we need to elect leaders ready to support Vermonters in a transition away from fossil fuels and into clean, local, renewable energy. This also includes investments in weatherization programs, public transit, affordable electric and fuel efficient vehicles as well as workforce development and job creation in these areas. As Lieutenant Governor, I will work to incentivize investment in renewable energy programs that are equitable, transparent and good for our economy.
Unemployment & The Economy
From our greatest economic challenges, also come our greatest economic opportunities. We are facing a global pandemic, a demographics crisis, and justifiable social unrest. If we are going to see a more economically viable and equitable future for Vermont, we need to make investments in our future. Top among them, closing Vermont’s broadband gap once and for all. Without equal access to broadband, Vermonters are left without access to education, remote work, economic opportunity, telemedicine, and critical health and safety and information. Second, we need to make it possible for our families to go back to work. Investments in affordable, quality child care as well as paid family and medical leave allow families to care for loved ones and pay the bills. Finally, we need to fully invest in higher education. We have the highest graduation rate in the country, yet 41% of our graduates do not go on to further education. According to the McClure Foundation, there are 62 high-pay jobs projected for our state. We have massive recruitment and retention challenges in the jobs that keep our communities whole. Our economic future, and solving our demographic challenges requires that we make investments in higher education a priority together with a concrete plan for our Vermont State Colleges.
Health Care Costs
We must address Vermont’s soaring and prohibitive health care costs. I strongly support investments that promote and ensure access to universal primary care. As Lieutenant Governor, I would support expanded access to community health clinics, an increase in primary care providers, and shifts away from a fee-for-service model towards a quality-care model. As we recover from COVID-19, and take stock of lessons learned, we must recognize that employment cannot be a prerequisite to accessing healthcare. We need to de-couple employment from insurance. Now is our moment to align our budget with our greatest needs and values and make universal access to affordable primary care a reality for all Vermonters.
Many Vermonters are overburdened by the high costs of living in Vermont. If we are going to address our demographic challenges we will need to address the soaring costs of child care, housing, health care and education in Vermont. I support raising the minimum wage to give every family and community the support they need to build a brighter future. We must also commit to addressing the constellation of challenges and opportunities that will make Vermont an equitable, inclusive, and inviting place to live now, and for future generations. That means deploying affordable broadband to every home to expand access to telemedicine, online learning, remote work and other 21st century economic opportunities. That means investing in higher education and creating a talent pipeline that supports younger Vermonters entering the workforce. Finally, that means establishing a universal paid family and medical leave program as well as affordable, quality child care so that no one has to choose between caring for a loved one or paying the bills.
In my hometown of Newbury, one in three children do not have access to the internet. Still today, roughly 70,000 Vermont homes and residents do not have adequate internet. If 70,000 homes or residents did not have access to water, heating or electricity we would be outraged. Moreover, COVID-19 has exposed why access to the internet is absolutely critical for access to remote work, online learning, telemedicine, economic opportunity as well as basic safety and health information. In partnership with Vermont’s Congressional delegation, communication union districts and others, we need to urgently commit the funding, resources and manpower necessary to close the broadband gap once and for all.
Recently, I visited with residents of North Bennington who have been tragically affected by the PFOA pollution caused by the ChemFab facility. While the support and leadership of local elected officials has brought remediation through connecting these families to municipal water, the lifelong health effects of contaminated water, air and soil may never be fully understood. As a prosecutor and human rights lawyer, I will prioritize the passage of medical monitoring in Vermont and rely on my expertise to be a strong advocate for Vermonters and a steward of our land and environment. I will work to ensure that private corporations are held accountable when they pollute our most precious natural resources and threaten the health and wellbeing of our friends and neighbors.
It is our responsibility as leaders to confront and root out systemic racism wherever it occurs. From housing and employment, to education and criminal justice we need to re-think how our systems are structured and who they serve. We need to collect data, review existing laws, and recognize that if we have the same voices at the table we will have the same outcomes. I have committed my career to promoting human rights and I will draw on this experience to unify Vermont in confronting systemic racism and promoting equity.
In the 2020 election, will you accept contributions from fossil fuel companies, fossil fuel company executives, fossil fuel industry lobbyists or fossil fuel political action committees?
In the 2020 election, will you accept contributions from corporations?
I review and consider all campaign contributions and to date have not sought or accepted any contributions from corporations. My priorities and platform are clear. I know why I’m running and the role I want to play in creating a more equitable and transparent Vermont for the future. In Vermont we are fortunate to have pioneers of socially responsible business who set global examples for how business can be good workers, communities, and our environment. In the future, I may consider contributions from exceptional Vermont-owned businesses on a case by case basis.
Do you support expansion of Vermont’s efforts to address plastic pollution by eliminating additional single-use items and requiring producers to take more responsibility over the products and packaging they create?
Yes. I commend the work of VPIRG, their partners, legislators, and local businesses in acting to decrease plastics pollution and I support the continued work to find practical and environmentally solutions for single-use plastics.
Do you support enactment of legislation that holds the state accountable to achieving its climate commitments, and requires strategic planning for Vermont’s recovery that focuses on how to transition to a more equitable, clean, local, and resilient economy (The Global Warming Solutions Act)?
Yes. I strongly support GWSA, in particular because it includes strong accountability measures, locally led governance structures, and direct investment in communities most at risk in a changing climate. The GWSA would move us beyond hope as a strategy. To be clear, the GWSA is the first step in the hard work we need to do together to mitigate the impacts of climate change on our communities. However, without a focusing framework, we will continue to talk and not act. We must resolve to act, work together, and put in place the support Vermonters need to transition to clean energy.
Sliding Scale Questions
Companies that pollute Vermont’s environment should be required to pay for clean up costs and medical monitoring of those exposed to dangerous chemicals.
Corporations should not be allowed to contribute to political candidates in Vermont.
Currently Vermont imports all of its fossil fuels and most of its renewable electricity from out of state. To create jobs and address the climate crisis, Vermont should develop significantly more in-state renewable energy, including wind and solar.
Vermont should significantly increase funding for efficiency and electrification to help Vermonters and Vermont businesses reduce their energy use and climate impact from heating and transportation.
New fossil fuel infrastructure, such as pipelines, should be banned in Vermont.
Manufacturers should provide consumers and independent repair shops with fair access to service information and affordable replacement parts so that individuals can fix their own products and equipment (Right to Repair).
Please share any additional information or comments you would like VPIRG members to know.
My deep Vermont roots, combined with a career in service to Vermont and advocating for human rights, equity and social justice, make me an unfaltering voice for the needs of Vermont workers, families and communities. We have the growing momentum and statewide support as a campaign to be successful in the August primary and November general election. Since entering the race, hundreds of Vermonters from diverse backgrounds and across all 14 counties in Vermont have come together in strong support of this campaign. To date, former Governors and Lt. Governors have endorsed the campaign including Governor Madeleine Kunin, Governor Peter Shumlin and former Lt. Governor Doug Racine. Newspapers, the Saint Alban’s Messenger and the Addison County Independent have all made endorsements. Vermonters are ready for a change in Montpelier, and we hear that every day. Adding to the leadership experience references above, my roots also run deep in Vermont and inform my views on the challenges facing our state. I was born and raised on a diversified vegetable and small dairy farm in Newbury. I’m a proud product of Vermont’s K-12 and higher education system; I’m a graduate of the University of Vermont and Vermont Law School. I have the global, national and local experience we need in this moment to lead us forward. Vermont is at a crossroads and this election will be historic. We can’t go back, we must go forward, and we need strong leaders who are committed to putting people before politics and the public interest at the forefront.