Tight Political Races Statewide and Local


Front Page / Aug. 26, 2010 2:16pm EDT

Abbie Mitchell of Randolph casts her vote in Tuesday's primary election. The Randolph balloting was held for the first time in the Randolph Town Hall instead of at Chandler. (Herald / Tim Calabro)Abbie Mitchell of Randolph casts her vote in Tuesday's primary election. The Randolph balloting was held for the first time in the Randolph Town Hall instead of at Chandler. (Herald / Tim Calabro)

By M.D. Drysdale

The five-way Democratic primary for governor ended dramatically in a virtual tie between three candidates Tuesday, with the fourth not far behind.

With 100% of the vote counted, according to media sources, Sen. Peter Shumlin led with 18,183 votes. Sen. Douglas Racine was 190 votes behind with 17,993, and Deb Markowitz was another 500 votes back at 17,499. Former Sen. Matt Dunne was fourth at 15,034, and he conceded the election at mid-day. Sen. Susan Bartlett trailed badly.

But the Democratic donnybrook wasn’t the only cliff-hanger in Vermont politics Tuesday.

Jocelyn Stohl of Braintree was defeated by exactly one vote in the three-way race for Republican nomination for the House of Representatives.

Republicans in the towns of Randolph, Braintree, Brookfield and Granville picked James Sault and Stewart Skrill as their candidates to face incumbent Democrats Patsy French and Larry Townsend in the November general election.

Sault, in his first run for elective office, led the ticket with 322 votes. Skrill garnered 253 and Stohl 252.

Sault was the top finisher in his hometown of Randolph. Brookfield voted for Skrill by a one-vote margin, and Stohl topped the list in her hometown of Braintree, where she serves on the selectboard. In Granville, just 18 votes were cast: eight for Sault and five each for Skrill and Stohl.

Buxton Cruises

The victory margin was much larger—and the turnout was also high—in the other primary contest in the White River Valley, where Sarah Buxon defeated Walter Hastings in the Royalton-Tunbridge district by a total of 389-219.

As Democratic nominee, she will face incumbent Republican David Ainsworth in the general election.

A 2010 graduate of Vermont Law School, Buxton at age 31 is already loaded with political expertise and attracted the support of former Gov. Howard Dean as she ran an energetic campaign. She told voters she would bring that same energy and political savvy to her seat in Montpelier, if she wins.

Hastings has a long record of service in Royalton organizations and town offices, but he miffed some Democrats by supporting Ainsworth in a previous election over his Democratic opponent.

Buxton piled up a huge lead, as many expected, in Tunbridge, capturing that town’s Democrats by 185-44. But she also beat Hastings in Royalton, by 204-175.

Buxton had been an active and popular student at the law school and organized a lot of support there, including the registration of more Vermont Law School students than is usual.

Write-In Victory

In an unusual primary result, a write-in candidate, Sandy Haas, easily defeated the only Democrat who was listed on the ballot on Tuesday.

As a result, Haas, a Progressive and the incumbent state rep, will appear twice on the November ballot—both as a Progressive and as a Democrat.

Vote totals for the whole five-town district were not available yesterday morning, but it was clear from the votes in the two biggest towns that Haas would be the winner. She beat Democrat Anthony Cotter by 127-97 in Bethel and clobbered him 213-49 in her home town of Rochester.

Cotter, who lives in Pittsfield, did not wage an active campaign, even declining to participate in The Herald’s questionnaire for local candidates.

WRV: Dunne, Racine

In the big race of the primaries, White River Valley voters tended to favor Matt Dunne and Doug Racine in the Democratic race for governor.

In Randolph, Dunne was the winner with 210 votes followed by 188 for Racine, and the others well back in the pack. Racine narrowly beat Dunne in Bethel, while in Rochester he was the clear leader, with Dunne a distant second.

In the other closely-watched statewide races, White River Valley voters generally went with the statewide majorities:

Former Rep. Steve Howard, a Democrat, will be pitted against Republican Sen. Phil Scott for lieutentant governor.

Democratic Sen. Jim Condos will run against former Douglas Administration official Jason Gibbs for secretary of state.

Democrat Doug Hoffer defeated Sen. Ed Flanagan to face Republican incumbent Thomas Salmon Jr. in the race for auditor of accounts.

Defying the predictions of experts, voter turnout in Randolph was very high, for a primary election. The total number of voters was 927, “the highest since I’ve been clerk,” said Town Clerk Joyce Mazzucco.

There were also twice as many absentee ballots cast—171—than ever before in a primary election in Randolph, she said. That is part of a general statewide trend towards more absentee voting.

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