Vermont voters make history, pick incumbents

Photo by Madeline Hughes
There was a steady stream of voters all day Tuesday for Vermont’s primary elections, said Diana Vachon, the Shelburne town clerk.


Vermont made political history Tuesday by choosing Christine Hallquist as the Democratic nominee for governor.

She now looks to unseat Republican Gov. Phil Scott in November.

Hallquist, a Hyde Park resident and former CEO of Vermont Electric Cooperative, is the first transgender candidate in the nation to win a major party nomination for statewide office.

She easily beat environmental advocate James Ehlers of Winooski, Brenda Siegel of Newfane, and Bristol ninth-grader Ethan Sonneborn.

Unofficial results from the Vermont secretary of state’s office Wednesday morning, with over 98 percent of voting districts reporting, showed Hallquist with over 40 percent of the vote, Ehlers with just under 19 percent, Siegel with 18 percent, and Sonneborn with almost 7 percent.

Scott, a former lieutenant governor and state senator from Berlin, easily won his primary race against political unknown Keith Stern from Springfield — although Stern got nearly 32 percent of the vote to Scott’s 65 percent. Support for Stern was rooted in an apparent protest by Scott’s base of the governor’s decision to sign tougher gun-control laws after a threatened school shooting in Fair Haven.

In Chittenden County, with few exceptions, voters supported nearly all incumbents on the ballot Tuesday.

In a closely watched county race for sheriff, Kevin McLoughlin, in office since 1987, won the Democratic nomination over colleague and Deputy Sherriff Mike Major, 53 percent to nearly 27 percent. McLoughlin won every town but Shelburne, Major’s hometown; there, Major got 52 percent to McLoughlin’s 47 percent.

In the Democratic primary for six state Senate seats, voters narrowed the field of nine candidates by choosing the incumbents.

The one upset Tuesday came in the Democratic primary for two assistant judge positions. Suzanne Brown, a lawyer from South Burlington, won the most votes with 25 percent; incumbent Connie Cain Ramsey of Burlington took 22 percent. Incumbent Charles Delaney finished with just 13 percent, and Zachary York of Burlington got 7 percent.

Delaney and York were endorsed by the Chittenden County Progressive Committee and could potentially land on the November ballot as Progressive candidates.

In the other judgeship contest, Probate Judge Gregory Glennon defeated former Winooski mayor Bill Norful, 47 percent to 30 percent.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch both handily won their primaries over newcomer challengers. Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats in the Senate, likely will decline the party nomination and again run as an independent in November for his third term. Sanders’ opponent was a political newcomer Folasade Adeluola, who lives in Shelburne.

Welch is seeking his seventh term in Congress and with over 80 percent of the vote, he easily surpassed challengers Dan Freilich of West Windsor and Benjamin Mitchell of Westminster.

In both federal races, perennial candidate H. Brooke Paige of Washington, Vt., finished on top in the GOP primary and will be on the ballot against both Sanders and Welch in November.

Paige, who has never won elected office, is also the Republican nominee for attorney general, treasurer, auditor of accounts and secretary of state.

Incumbents in all of those statewide offices — TJ Donovan, Beth Pearce, Doug Hoffer and Jim Condos — had no Democratic Party primary challengers.

Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman of Hinesburg had no primary contest. He received the Democratic nomination and also has a nod from the Progressive Party. He faces Republican Don Turner of Milton in the general election. Turner has represented Milton in the Vermont House.

In local races for Vermont House seats, none of the incumbents — all Democrats — in Shelburne, Charlotte or Hinesburg faced primary competition. Unopposed in the November election are Reps. Kate Webb of Shelburne; Jessica Brumsted, representing Shelburne and St. George; and Charlotte’s Mike Yantachka. Rep. Bill Lippert from Hinesburg has a Republican opponent for the general election, newcomer Sarah Toscano.

Tuesday’s voter turnout was on the higher side for a Vermont primary, at nearly 22 percent, with nearly 104,000 of the state’s 473,156 registered voters casting ballots. In 2016 when the governorship was up for grabs, primary turnout was 26.5 percent. In contrast, 2008’s primary election attracted just 8.5 percent of registered voters that year, according to state records.

Locally turnout was highest in Shelburne where 30 percent of those registered voted. Charlotte saw 24 percent cast ballots and in Hinesburg 20 percent went to the polls.

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