• Gekas cut her teeth as health care advocate
     | June 15,2012

    MONTPELIER — Her name won’t ring many bells outside Montpelier. But the Democrats’ newly minted candidate for lieutenant governor has built a solid reputation in the Statehouse as an advocate for liberal health care policies.

    Cassandra Gekas, a 30-year-old Montpelier resident embarking on her first political campaign, announced her decision to run shortly after filing a candidate petition Thursday afternoon.

    As a health care advocate at the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, Gekas has spent the last two years lobbying lawmakers for health care reform, including the single-payer law. She resigned her post at VPIRG after announcing Thursday.

    “I think Vermonters deserve a lieutenant governor who will be a tireless and passionate advocate for their needs, and to me this means making sure that every Vermonter has access to high-quality, affordable health care,” Gekas said.

    She said she’d use the statewide office as a platform to push for community-based economic development programs, as well as openness and transparency in government.

    Gekas, a native of Pennsylvania, moved to Vermont in 2004. The Pennsylvania State University graduate has held a series of positions in human services, working in policy development at the Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger and counseling battered women at the Domestic Abuse Education Project.

    “From the minute I stepped foot in Vermont I fell in love and knew I would never leave,” she said. “I want to dedicate my life to helping Vermonters and making this state as strong as it can be.”

    Gekas said she was approached by members of both the Democratic and Progressive parties in recent days, adding that she’ll seek the Progressives’ nomination in the August primary and run as a “fusion” candidate.

    She faces an uphill battle against popular Republican incumbent Phil Scott, who until Thursday looked as though he might have a free ride in his first re-election campaign.

    Scott was unavailable for comment Thursday.

    Gekas has played key roles in a number of health care bills. She helped shepherd bills in 2010 and 2011 that sought to force private insurers to cover the services of midwives. She also pushed for legislation passed this year that will require private insurers to disclose publicly the number of patient claims they deny.

    peter.hirschfeld @rutlandherald.com

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