By SHELBURNE NEWS STAFF
Most election years, the top of the ticket gets the most attention from Vermont voters.
This year, that attention is muted.
There’s a lively race for governor, between Republican incumbent Phil Scott and Democratic nominee Christine Hallquist, but the race for lieutenant governor hasn’t thrown off any sparks, and all the other major candidates — for U.S. Senate, Congress, and a string of state-level offices — lack significant opposition.
For instance, eight little-known figures are on the ballot against U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent who came close to being the Democratic presidential nominee two years ago. They are Lawrence Zupan, a Republican; Reid Kane of the Liberty Union Party; and six independents: Folasade Adeluola, Russell Beste, Bruce Busa, Edward Gilbert Jr., Brad Peacock and Jon Svitavsky.
Democrat Peter Welch has been Vermont’s only congressman since 2007, and he has even less competition — Republican Anya Tynio, Laura Potters of the Liberty Union Party, and perennial candidate Cris Ericson, an independent.
For other state-level offices, the incumbents, all Democrats, aren’t losing any sleep worrying about their job security:
• Attorney General T.J. Donovan faces Janssen Willhoit, a Republican, and Rosemarie Jackowski of the Liberty Union Party.
• Secretary of State Jim Condos is up against Mary Alice Hebert of the Liberty Union Party and H. Brooke Paige, a perennial Republican candidate who filed for half a dozen offices in the primary election, but had to choose only one in the general election.
• Treasurer Beth Pearce faces Republican Rick Morton.
• Auditor Doug Hoffer faces Republican Rick Kenyon and Marina Brown of the Liberty Union Party.
This is the headline race.
Republican Phil Scott, completing his first two-year term, has a nearly universal reputation as a nice guy, but that patina is wearing a little thin after some bumps and bruises in this year’s legislative session.
Scott ran a construction company while serving in the Legislature and as lieutenant governor, but sold his share to his partner when he was elected governor. However, the state ethics commission alleges he hasn’t done enough to separate from the company, which continues to compete for state contracts.
His chief competition is Democrat Christine Hallquist, who has drawn national attention as the first transgender candidate nominated for a governorship by a major party. Hallquist is former CEO of the Vermont Electric Cooperative and has a good reputation as a business leader, but has had trouble mounting a dynamic campaign.
In the summer primary, Scott’s support for tighter gun legislation this spring was a flashpoint among Republicans. His signature to controversial bills to ban high-capacity magazines and increase background checks roiled gun-rights activists but earned accolades from moderates and even liberals who appreciated the political risk.
Shifting toward the general election, Scott and Hallquist have largely focused on their differing approaches to Vermont’s economy and fiscal issues.
Scott has pushed three main points: making Vermont more affordable, growing the economy and protecting the vulnerable.
Hallquist has similar priorities, but a different strategy.
Scott has pressed the Legislature not to raise taxes or fees, an approach Hallquist blasted in an October debate. “No new taxes is not a good plan for the state of Vermont,” she said. “A good business person knows you’ve got to get more revenue; you can cost-control yourself out of business.”
Hallquist wants to spur economic growth by expanding high-speed broadband access, and would require electrical utilities to install broadband cables, rather than internet companies. She says good broadband will encourage people to move to rural areas, reinvigorating small community schools and small hospitals.
“This is just like the ’30s, when the cities had electricity and rural America did not,” she said, explaining how improved broadband access would rejuvenate struggling Vermont towns.
Scott has suggested that school and hospital consolidation is inevitable, given shrinking populations.
Hallquist says she voted for Scott in 2016, but is disappointed in his performance, including vetoes of a higher minimum wage and a paid family leave program.
Hallquist favors relying on income taxes, not property taxes, to finance schools, saying rich and poor would pay more equal shares of their earnings. Scott opposes that: “If you don’t fix the spending, then someone’s spending more.”
Vermont has a high percentage of older people, and it needs young people to move here, Scott said. His key to doing that is to keep the state affordable by avoiding higher taxes, fees, and other expenses.
For lieutenant governor
For lieutenant governor, Don Turner, a Republican legislator from Milton, is running against incumbent David Zuckerman, a Progressive and Democrat from Hinesburg who won a two-year term in 2016.
Turner, a state legislator since 2006 and House minority leader since 2011, is focusing on affordability and holding the line on new taxes and fees.
Turner is also Milton’s town manager, and he’s confident he can keep that job and also be lieutenant governor, which is only a part-time job.
The Legislature is heavily Democratic and the current governor is a Republican. Turner said he sees the potential to bridge the divide.
Zuckerman, an organic farmer, served in the Vermont House for 12 years and the state Senate for four years. He lives is a regular at the Burlington Farmers Market, selling produce and talking politics.
Zuckerman is the first Progressive Party candidate to win statewide office in Vermont; he was also the nominee of the Democratic Party.
Zuckerman, who says he was inspired to enter politics by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, has clashed with Scott on proposals to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and establish a statewide paid family leave program, which Scott vetoed.
No House races
Locally, voters in Shelburne’s two legislative districts have just one candidate on the ballot. Incumbent Democrats Kate Webb and Jessica Brumsted have no opposition.
Webb holds the Chittenden 5-1 seat representing part of Shelburne; Brumsted’s Chittenden 5-2 district covers a section of Shelburne and neighboring St. George.
In the House since 2009, this will be Webb’s sixth term. Her key committee assignment is ranking member on the Education Committee.
Brumsted is completing her first two-year term. A key assignment for her has been a seat on the House Government Operations Committee.
The Chittenden Senate race to fill six seats is crowded with all six incumbents seeking re-election and a slate of seven challengers. (see story page 1)
Two county races have no contest: Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George and Sheriff Kevin McLaughlin are both unopposed for re-election.
Shelburne voters will make decisions in three other spots on the ballot:
• For Probate Judge: Incumbent Gregory J. Glennon, a Democrat, and Republican William “Bill” Norful. The two faced off in the Democratic primary in August with Glennon winning that contest. The probate division of the county superior courts handles adoptions, birth, death, and marriage records, emancipation, guardianships, estates, trusts, and wills.
• Assistant Judge: The civil court seats a panel of three judges who confer to decide non-jury civil cases. Two positions will be filled. On the ballot are incumbents Charles Delaney on the Progressive and Republican tickets and Democrat Connie Cain Ramsey; challengers are Democrat Suzanne Brown and Progressive Zachary York.
• Justice of the Peace: The bottom of the ballot resembles musical chairs. Shelburne has 15 spots for justices of the peace and 16 candidates.
Voters in Shelburne may request and cast ballots absentee or early up until 5 p.m. Monday at the town clerk’s office.
On Tuesday, Election Day, the polls will be set up in the town gym at the town offices from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Along with voting, the Shelburne Food Shelf’s Election Day food drive is collecting non-perishable food items at the polls. Dental hygiene items are particularly needed.
As of Tuesday, Town Clerk Diana Vachon had sent out nearly 1,300 absentee ballots and more than 900 had been returned already.