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It’s Minter, Scott for governor

Commons reporter Olga Peters contributed to this report.

BRATTLEBORO—The race to be the next governor of Vermont in November will be between two members of the outgoing Shumlin administration.

Sue Minter of Waterbury, a former lawmaker and head of the Agency of Transportation, won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination on Tuesday, besting former lawmakers Matt Dunne of Hartland and Peter Galbraith of Townshend.

Minter will face Lt. Gov. Phil Scott of Berlin, who decisively defeated retired businessman Bruce Lisman of Shelburne in the Republican gubernatorial primary.

With 99 percent of the state’s cities and towns reporting by midnight, Minter received 35,801 votes, or 51 percent of the ballots, to Dunne’s 25,436, and Galbraith’s 6,561.

Cris Ericson of Chester and H. Brooke Paige of Washington also ran in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, but attracted little support from voters. Each received 1 percent of the vote, with 521 and 377 votes, respectively.

Ericson also ran against incumbent U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy in the Democratic primary, while Paige ran against Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan for attorney general. Ericson and Paige both lost handily. Leahy received 89 percent of the vote, while Donovan garnered 80 percent.

In the Republican guberbatorial primary, Scott picked up 60 percent of the vote, topping Lisman, 27,392 votes to 17,900.

Three Democratic lawmakers — Rep. Kesha Ram of Burlington, House Speaker Shap Smith of Morristown, and Sen. David Zuckerman of Hinesburg — ran for lieutenant governor.

Zuckerman won with 45 percent of the vote; he had 30,362 votes to 25,987 votes for Smith. Ram was a distant third with 11,836. Zuckerman will now face former state auditor and senator Randy Brock of Swanton, who ran unopposed for the Republican nomination.

Few contested races

The only other contested statewide race was for treasurer, as incumbent Democrat Beth Pearce crushed challenger Richard Dunne of Burlington, 29,013 to 15,245.

There were no contested primary races in Windham County, as all the incumbent candidates for the House and Senate ran unopposed.

Several challengers for House seats were unopposed in their party primaries.

Eddie Cutler and Bonnie Depino, both of Westminster, both secured the Republican nomination for Windham-4, where they will take on Democratic incumbents Mike Mrowicki of Putney and David Deen of Westminster.

Former state representative John Moran of Wardsboro won the Democratic nomination in the Windham-Bennington district. He will face incumbent independent Laura Sibelia of West Dover, to whom he lost his seat in 2014.

Bigger than expected turnout

The competitive races for governor were cited by town clerks around the state as a reason for the higher than expected turnout.

Secretary of State Jim Condos told reporters on Tuesday that more than 100,000 Vermonters voted, or about 20 percent of eligible voters.

Condos also said that nearly 26,000 absentee ballots were requested by voters, and that about 21,000 were returned to local town clerks.

In Brattleboro, 2,021 of the town’s 8,228 voters cast ballots — a 25 percent turnout, according to Town Clerk Annette Cappy.

Cappy said early ballots were included in the the voter turnout numbers. Her office sent out 652 early ballots for the primary. Of those, 560 were returned.

The 92 ballots that didn’t get mailed back to the Town Clerk’s office caught Cappy’s attention. “That’s a high number for us,” she said.

Cappy also noted a number of voters coming to the polls surprised and annoyed that they had received an early ballot that they never requested. They also learned at the polls that because they had received an early ballot, they might not be allowed to vote at the polls.

Under Vermont statute, election officials aren’t supposed to let people who requested an early ballot vote at the polls unless they return their unmarked early ballot, Cappy explained.

Based on conversations with the confused voters, Cappy believes many of the early ballot requests came not from the voters but from campaign staff during phone-a-thons. Because the voter hadn’t requested an early ballot, many told Cappy they threw them away.

“While these campaigners think they’re doing a favor, they may really be doing a disservice,” Cappy said.

Brattleboro election staff allowed voters who had received early ballots in error to vote after signing an affidavit swearing that they weren’t voting twice.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #369 (Wednesday, August 10, 2016). This story appeared on page A1.

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