Commons News Editor Randolph T. Holhut contributed to this report. Updated on Friday, Aug. 31.
Originally published in The Commons issue #167 (Wednesday, August 29, 2012).
BRATTLEBORO—Come January, there will be a new face in Montpelier representing Brattleboro’s District 3.
Political newcomer and local businessman Tristan Toleno was declared the winner of the Democratic primary on Tuesday, defeating challenger Kate O’Connor by a 352-323.
The winner of the District 3 race will be succeeding retiring incumbent Sarah Edwards, who chose not to run for another term after 10 years in Montpelier as a Progressive lawmaker.
There is no Republican candidate for the seat, which will make Toleno the presumptive state representative.
According to Town Clerk Annette Cappy, about 500 absentee ballots were cast in Brattleboro, but neither O’Connor nor Toleno gained gained from any Democratic write-in votes. O’Connor received four Republican and zero Progressive write-in votes, while Toleno got one Republican and nine Progressive write-in votes.
After hearing the voting results, a happy and amazed Toleno said, “I’m feeling a little dizzy.”
He described his win as a “team win for me” and thanked his campaign volunteers and his campaign manager, Don Webster.
Toleno said he would plan his next steps after a good night’s sleep.
Now a caterer, Toleno has worked for 18 years as a chef and operated the former Riverview restaurant for 11 years. His wife Susan Webster-Toleno is also from Brattleboro. The couple has two boys, Owen and Malcolm.
In a phone interview, O’Connor said of the loss, “I’m doing fine. I’ve been in this business long enough. This isn’t my first rodeo, as they say.”
Even though the unofficial results were close, with 29 votes between the two, O’Connor said she wouldn’t call for a recount.
O’Connor said working for Gov. Peter Shumlin and former Gov. Howard Dean taught her that “you win some, you lose some, and look where they are now.”
She said that this was the first campaign that she ran for herself.
“I found that there are so many great people in this town. It [the support] really meant a lot to me. I know I sound so sappy, but it’s actually true,” she said.
O’Connor was not sure what her next step would be, but said in the short-term, she needed to shift her energy back to promoting her recent book, Do The Impossible, about the Dean presidential campaign in 2004.
In Windham-3, incumbents Carolyn Partridge and Matt Trieber held on to their seats, turning back a stiff challenge from Bellows Falls attorney Chris Moore.
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