Democrat has eyes on governor

Parker starts campaign early

By Ben Moger-Williams
Observer staff

The only Democrat to enter the race for Vermont governor kicked off his campaign early, with an energetic barn party at the West Monitor Barn in Richmond on Saturday.

Scudder Parker, who has held jobs as a state senator, minister and chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party, announced his gubernatorial bid in August, becoming the first challenger to sitting Republican Gov. Jim Douglas.

Sixty-two-year-old Parker was introduced Saturday by a legion of Vermont Democrats, including former governors Philip Hoff and Madeleine Kunin, and House speaker Gaye Symington. In a letter from U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy read by his aide Chuck Ross, Leahy said: “Scudder is a man of faith and has faith in Vermont and community. … He has lived Vermont, he understands Vermont, he is Vermont.”

Parker spoke to a crowd of about 400 people who crammed into the recently restored barn off U.S. Route 2. Many state politicians were among the throng of supporters. Rep. Jim McCullough, D-Williston, said he got to know Parker while working on an energy bill that went through the House recently.

“I found him to be not only very knowledgeable in his field, but also a very sincere and good person, which is very important to me,” McCullough said.

During his nearly 40-minute speech, Parker roused the crowd by quoting from the bible; telling anecdotes about his life growing up on his family’s farm in the Northeast Kingdom; and talking about how Vermont needs to elect a new governor.

“You can demand more from your governor,” he said. “You can get more from a governor.”

In his speech, he berated the Douglas administration for failing to provide adequate solutions for health care, energy independence and education issues.

“We are simply not getting the job done,” he said.

Parker said in an interview that he learned a lesson from Peter Clavelle’s unsuccessful gubernatorial bid last election: Start early. Parker said he wants to have enough time to explain all of the issues in depth to voters.

“It’s difficult in a race that starts in May or June to win against a governor who is dictating the shape of the discussion,” Parker said.

The candidate’s unusual first name, Scudder, is actually an old family surname that was converted into a first name because it was going to be lost through a marriage, Parker said. Parker’s father was also named Scudder.

Parker said one thing people may not know about him is that he loves to engage in physical competition. “I love cutting firewood, and I love the things I learned to do on the farm as a kid,” Parker said.

One of the themes that pervade Parker’s orations is his commitment to “ Vermont values.” He seemed to enjoy playing up his Vermont country roots as a campaigning tool. He said of Douglas: “I’ll challenge him to a hand-milking contest any day.”

Parker’s family moved to Danville in 1952. He was an ordained minister from 1969-1990. He served four terms as state senator for Caledonia County from 1981-1988, and most recently has worked for Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility.

Liberty Union candidate Peter Diamondstone and Marijuana Party candidate Cris Ericson have also entered the run for governor.