Political Profiles: Progressive Rep. David Zuckerman

Representative David Zuckerman, a legislator in the Vermont State House and member of the Progressive Party, sat down with the The Cynic to discuss his past, present and future work, both in and out of Montpelier. Zuckerman is running for a seventh term as one of two representatives for Chittenden County’s 3-4 District, which includes the University of Vermont.He is running alongside fellow incumbent Progressive Rep. Chris Pearson and is opposed by challengers Kesha Ram and Phillip Ortego, both Democrats. In 2006, Zuckerman was briefly in the running for Vermont’s single seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and he also has brought up for vote a resolution calling for the impeachment of President Bush. Zuckerman currently serves as the Agriculture Chair in the House and lives in Burlington where he operates an organic vegetable farm with his wife.Vermont Cynic: What are your motivations for being a State Representative?David Zuckerman: When I got involved in politics it was from an activist’s perspective: Human rights and social justice. Most of those injustices we face stem from a certain economic inequality that has only been getting worse in my lifetime and the lifetimes of students at UVM. It is an exciting time to be involved, because, sadly, there are so many things to fix. I would like to continue to be there and continue to fight those injustices. What do you consider to be among your biggest accomplishments during that time?That’s a challenge. Civil Unions is a vote I will remember forever. Livable wage work; we have made significant improvements when it comes to livable wage. How were you involved with livable wages?I was not on the committee, but I regularly worked with the Working Vermonters’ Caucus, which Progressives co-founded, and worked with the members on the committee and organizers from the Peace and Justice Center to coordinate those efforts. A lot of the work is done in commit?tee, but a lot of it is done in the hallway. And so, while I was not on the committee, I worked a lot with my colleagues. What things do you think you could have done better? The Bush impeachment situation: I was pushing for impeachment with a team of other representatives and activists from around the state. We brought that to the floor and I was not as prepared on the floor for that debate as I wish I could have been. I was in the midst of a couple of other big bills and I did not have enough time to prepare as I wish I could have. Why did you call for the impeachment of Bush?In that situation, when the president lied to the public, took us to war under pretenses that he should have known were false – for those reasons alone – and in basically violating our own constitutional rights of privacy and against torture, he has fundamentally broken the law and the founding principles of our country. That is the reason for impeachment. In 2006 you were briefly in the running for Vermont’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Why did you ultimately decide not to run?There were a number of reasons; as one of the Progressives, we have been diligent and methodical in choosing where to run and where not to run. Because, while we are trying to build a third party to offer more perspectives and alternatives to voters, we aren’t just going to do it rough shod over whoever is in office. We want to run in seats where there is a fundamental difference in opinion.How does that principle apply to the ’06 House race? While I did not always agree with Peter Welsh, he is a relatively good Democrat, and it did appear that the race was going to be relatively close and that the balance of Congress may have been in the tipping point, so for the better of the country and the overall policy shift that would happen with the Democratic Congress, I chose not to run. And for personal reasons I chose not to run. I have a child and a business, and running for Congress and serving in Congress is a level of service that is tremendous. I did not think it was a good time for me to do that personally. So there were two reasons.Why do you affiliate yourself with the Progressive Party?I do fundamentally believe we need more than two parties. For all the good Democrats that are in the Democratic Party, there are just as many that are relatively conservative. The breadth of that party is so big that a lot of the times the very liberal or very progressive end of the spectrum is swallowed by the more moderate part of the party in order to appear centrist. There is a key role to play, as members of a third party in the elected chamber, be?cause once that group of people is moving forward and some of the policy moves to?wards to the middle, they swallow and they vote for it. Outside the party we can say, wait, we need to go farther on health care, wait, we need to go farther on livable wages, farther on marriage, farther on affordable housing. What is your appeal to UVM students? I think a lot of UVMers were excited about my opponent, because, “Hey, here’s someone our age running,” and I was nervous about that when I first came up on campus. I found that, thankfully, many of the students who had been here a couple years, said, “Oh yeah, no, I’ve seen you in a class, I’ve seen you speak, or I’ve seen you tabling on campus, and you and Chris are great.” It’s because we stand for the right is?sues. I think it’s about issues and policies and the ability to get things done, and those students are aware of our accomplishments and realize that we are very effective. And if you really want change, it is important that those few people who are strong change advocates in Montpelier re?main there so we can have that change. During this last month and a half, I have found that a lot of the first and second year students, who are just beginning to engage in the political process, particularly with this election, were either not that aware of what’s going on, or said “Oh yeah, a student – or close to a student – is running.” But again, as they have looked at our material and the different support we have from different Democrats, Independents, and Republicans; the different endorsements we’ve had on environmental issues, labor issues, choice and the freedom to marry, I think that they realize, “Oh, if they’re good people on these issues, why would we want to move them out of office?” So I’ve seen that support grow as people become more in tune. What do you see as the biggest issue coming up?Economics is the most important issue coming up. The job market is going to be horrendous coming up for students, especially for students coming out of college.What about your political future? As I said before, I have a child and a business, but 10 or 12 years from now, I may consider running for something high?er. I enjoy being a legislator, but I don’t think I’m going to do it forever.