Only a handful of votes separate Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin and Chittenden County Sen. Doug Racine in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.
The Vermont Secretary of State’s office announced on Friday afternoon that Shumlin held a 197 vote lead over Racine. Secretary of State Deb Markowitz remained in third, former Windsor County Sen. Matt Dunne trailed in fourth place most of the evening and Lamoille County Sen. Susan Bartlett was never a factor.
According to the Secretary of State’s office, Shumlin and Racine each had 25 percent of the vote with Shumlin holding a razor-thin 18,276-to-18,079 lead. Markowitz was at 24 percent at 17,580 votes, Dunne had 21 percent of the vote at 15,323 and Bartlett garnered 5 percent, just 3,729 votes.
These are unofficial results, and they won’t be official until they are certified by the Secretary of State’s office on Tuesday. A total of 74,634 votes were cast.
Racine said Friday afternoon that he will seek a court-supervised recount. Under Vermont law, if an initial count shows one candidate in a statewide race trailing another by less than 2 percent of total votes cast, the candidate who’s behind can request a recount.
The last time a statewide recount was needed, in 2006, Tom Salmon came from behind to defeat incumbent State Auditor Randy Brock.
The winner will face Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, who was unopposed for his party’s nomination Tuesday. Independents Cris Ericson, Dan Feliciano, Ben Mitchell, Emily Peyton and Dennis Steele also appear on the ballot for the Nov. 2 general election.
Progressive Party candidate Martha Abbott announced Friday that she would not accept her party’s nomination and urged party members “to do everything we can to ensure that Dubie is not elected.”
Dunne and Bartlett conceded defeat not long after the final unofficial results came in.
The Democratic race for governor was the most competitive primary in Vermont since 1980, when six Republican candidates ran for the right to take on Sen. Patrick Leahy in his first re-election campaign.
Windham State Senate, House races
In the two contested Democratic primary races in Windham County, Sen. Jeanette White of Putney, who is running for her fifth term as senator, and former U.S. Ambassador Peter Galbraith of Townshend, were the top vote getters. Westminster Selectboard member Toby Young, who served a decade in the Vermont House, finished third.
With every town except Dover and Guilford reporting at press time, White received 3,641 votes, Galbraith got 3,565 votes and Young had 2,740 votes.
“I guess people like what I’m doing and want me to do more of it,” White said.
“Obviously, Jeanette and I did well in big places, like Brattleboro and Rockingham,” said Galbraith. “I obviously finished third in Westminster and Putney, but had significant support in both those places. The real dimension of this election is I had very big margins in very small places. They really added up. Look at Windham and Vernon, or Newfane. In Windham, I picked up 30 votes. Grafton, Marlboro...and so it goes.”
The winners will face Republican political newcomer Hilary Cooke, a Brattleboro health insurance executive, and Liberty Union candidate Aaron Diamondstone, in November.
In the only contested race for the House in the county — the race to succeed Rep. Virginia “Gini” Milkey in Windham District 3-1 in Brattleboro — Valerie Stuart, who runs a public relations firm, defeated Lorie Cartwright, a local attorney and a member of the Brattleboro Town School Board, 367-306.
Cartwright said she wishes Stuart well but will run in the future.
“I’m looking forward to what I’m going to do next,” she said.
Stuart, 53, has served as the marketing director for the Strolling of the Heifers. She also handled fundraising efforts and sat on the board of dozens of local businesses and nonprofits, including Youth Services and the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center.
“We’re all on the same team. We want to create a better world,” said Stuart, who will face Republican Richard Morton of Brattleboro in November.
Turnout varies around county
Tuesday marked the first time that primary voting took place in August. It had previously been held on the second Tuesday in September.
The date was moved up this year by the Legislature to help the state comply with a new federal law, the Military and Overseas Voter Act, which requires states to provide 45 days before a general election to ensure overseas voters have time to receive and return their absentee ballots.
Primary turnouts have traditionally been low in Vermont. In both 2006 and 2008, fewer than 10 percent of the state’s registered voters — now numbering approximately 440,000 — showed up to the polls.
But many towns in Windham County saw strong turnouts, and early voting helped add to the turnout in some towns.
It looked more like an November election day than an August primary outside Brattleboro Union High School, with candidates and supporters lining the entrance to the high school. A steady line of voters streamed passed most of the day.
According to Brattleboro Town Clerk Annette Cappy, more voters cast early ballots than voted in the 2008 primary. This year’s primary, with 24 percent of registered voters participating, blew past the 6 percent who cast ballots in 2008.
In Westminster, at 6 p.m., Town Clerk Doreen Woodward said her town surpassed the 2008 primary turnout by 1:30 p.m. “We had about 480 voters in 2008, and we have about 650 right now. It was steady all day.”
Of the 1,620 registered Vernon voters, 389 cast ballots.
“[That turnout] is unbelievable for a primary,” said Vernon Town Clerk Sandra Harris.
Wilmington’s turnout of 275 was almost double the 2008 primary, said Town Clerk Susan Haughwout.
Rockingham saw a heavy turnout, mainly due to a hotly-contested special Selectboard election. They had more than 700 voters as of 5 p.m. and a steady stream of voters filed into the Masonic Temple all day.
It was much more quiet in Athens. Town Clerk Darlene Wyman said only three people turned in absentee ballots and only 26 people of the town’s 203 registered voters had voted as of 4 p.m.
Polls in Newfane and Townshend saw a slow but steady stream of voters through the day. Both towns had roughly 150 voters cast ballots by mid-afternoon. But while Newfane Town Clerk Gloria Cristelli said that her town had 122 voters turn in absentee ballots, Townshend Town Clerk Anita Bean said only 28 early ballots were turned in, and one of them had to be thrown out.
“Somebody filled out all three ballots [for each respective party] and put them in the same envelope,” Bean said. “We had to call the Secretary of State’s office to figure what to do with it. They ruled that it was an invalid ballot.”
Haughwout, although pleased with Wilmington’s turnout, said, “I do wish more people participated in the choosing of their candidates."
She wonders if some people, especially those new to Vermont, realize they don’t have to be a registered member of a party to vote in the primaries.
Guilford resident Roo Grubis explained why she voted in this primary.
“It’s part of the [democratic] process. Waiting for the general election takes away some of your choice. [In the primary,] you get to choose who to pick from,” she said.
Before the polls closed
Dave Schoales of Brattleboro, an early Matt Dunne supporter, arrived as soon as the Guilford polls opened at 10 a.m. to hold signs for his candidate, his last opportunity to persuade undecided voters.
A voter stops and asks if Dunne is a “good guy."
“People still have questions, even on election day,” said Schoales.
“We’re pretty optimistic,” said Shumlin supporter Evan Abrams.
David C. Perry of Brattleboro started the day at 7 a.m. to get in some last-minute campaigning. Out front of the Brattleboro polls he holds a Dunne sign and joined fellow supporter Ian McBean of Dummerston in returning thumbs-up gestures from voters.
Perry grew up with Dunne and “was right there on his ticket” when he found out his childhood friend was running for office.
Perry’s daughter, on the other hand, was campaigning for Shumlin. Conversations have been “guarded” around the Perry family dinner table, he said with a smile.
Across the road from Perry, Jeanette White waved to people driving past. Regarding early voting, she said it’s great for voters but not so great for candidates. Voters could request ballots as early as June, she said, before she had started campaigning.
The State Senate candidate had visited Bellows Falls earlier and stopped by Putney, to vote then drove home to “de-skunk” her dog.
“The glamorous life of a lady senator,” she laughed.
In the other statewide races on the Democratic ballot:
• U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy easily defeated retired Navy physician Daniel Freilich of Wilmington. Leahy will face Republican Len Britton and several independent and minor-party candidates in the Nov. 2 general election, including Freilich, who appears on the ballot as an independent in the general election.
• Public policy analyst Doug Hoffer of Burlington defeated former State Auditor and current Chittenden County state Sen. Ed Flanagan in the Auditor’s race.
• State Rep. Steve Howard of Rutland City defeated State Rep. Christopher Bray of New Haven to appear on the ballot for lieutenant governor.
• Former state Sen. Jim Condos of Montpelier defeated attorney Charles Merriman of Middlesex in the Secretary of State race.
There were no contested races for the House or Senate on the Republican primary ballot in Windham County. In the three statewide contests:
• State Sen. Phil Scott, a Berlin construction contractor and stock car racer, defeated businessman Mark Snelling of Starksboro for the lieutenant governor nomination.
• Former Douglas administration spokesman Jason Gibbs of Duxbury defeated Chris Roy, an attorney and Selectboard member from Williston, for Secretary of State.
• In a three-way race for the U.S. House, conservative activist and talk-show host Paul Beaudry of Swanton edged retired businessman John Mitchell of Rutland City and Keith Stern of Springfield, who ran for the House in 2006 as an independent. Beaudry will face Democratic incumbent Peter Welch in November.