Former Vermont minority leader says lessons learned on Nov. 3

Editor’s note: This article is by Lou Varricchio, editor of the Vermont Eagle. It is republished here with permission.

More than a few pundits have reported that Vermont’s political status quo was challenged on Election Day. While the Republican national ticket lost in close state races against the Democratic ticket on Nov. 3, at least on the Vermont state level, the Grand Old Party did much better than anyone would have predicted on the eve before the election.

One pundit, who followed the 2020 election returns closely, was former Vermont State House Minority Leader Don Turner.

Lou Varricchio/TNR

Don Turner

A resident of Milton, Turner is a recognized leader among Vermont Republicans. He represented the Chittenden-9 district until 2012 and then represented the Chittenden-10 district from 2013 to 2019 for the town of Milton (Chittenden County). He also served as the minority leader of the Vermont House of Representatives from 2011 to 2019 where he was respected by both parties.

Turner lost a 2018 bid for lieutenant governor of Vermont against David Zuckerman (P/D) in the November general election. Zuckerman, in turn, lost his 2020 bid for governor against incumbent Gov. Phil Scott.

In the days following last month’s election, Turner took a look at statewide results and offered his view of things. Clearly, Turner was pleased with how the Vermont GOP performed in this year’s controversial and highly partisan election.

“As I said before the election, this was a very unique cycle in Vermont,” Turner said. “The implications were even more far-reaching than I could have predicted.”

Here are Turner’s top three takeaways from the election. He noted that he hopes Vermont policymakers take heed of voters’ voices.

Q. The 2020 election went very well for Governor Scott. With the exception of hardline conservatives, why has he become so popular?

Turner: “Voters approved of Governor Scott’s job performance with outstanding enthusiasm and elected to send him back by a 40-point margin, earning him the highest vote total of any governor in Vermont history.

“Scott’s opponent won just four out of 251 towns. Some attribute this to the governor’s outstanding handling of the COVID-19 crisis, but Scott was among the most popular governors prior to the present pandemic. Vermonters trust his steady hand at the helm of state government, his focus on balance, and his commitment to affordability. If there ever were a mandate from a Vermont election, it would be Governor Scott’s re-election.”

Q. You say the “status quo” was rejected by Vermont voters. How so?

Turner: “In January, we’ll have a new president pro tem, a new lieutenant governor, a new speaker of the house, a new Progressive Caucus leader in the Vermont State House, and well more than a dozen incumbents sent home by voters.

“Clearly, under the Golden Dome, Vermonters weren’t happy. Overall, Vermont Republicans will see a net gain of four in the House and a net gain of one in the Senate. Vermonters wanted more balance, and they’ll get it in January.

“The Democrats have lost their supermajority in the Legislature.”

Q. How did state Progressives do in 2020?

Turner: “The Vermont Progressive Party must seriously be re-evaluating its strategy after this election. Not only did it fail to make gains in the Legislature, but the Progressive lieutenant governor and Progressive-Democrat president pro tem were replaced with pure Democrats. The Progressive Caucus Leader in the House lost. One might seriously consider whether their unspoken alliance with the Democrats for major offices is working out in their favor–or if it’s just bolstering the Vermont Democratic Party.

“Whatever way you slice it, this was a significant election with important consequences for our state’s future. But overall, Vermonters have shifted control of the state in a more balanced direction. We can only hope our state leaders are up to the task.”

Image courtesy of Lou Varricchio/TNR

16 thoughts on “Former Vermont minority leader says lessons learned on Nov. 3

  1. Worth noting that John Klar did the heavy lifting in helping new faces to run and promotion of the ticket as much if not moreso than the party.

  2. It is my belief our voting system is rigged. Only an outside audit of our machines and system would be able to detect this.

    Zuckerman never had a chance! Some Democrats strongly oppose Progressives esp running on Dem ticket – but not loudly. a reliable Democrat in Chittenden Cty was ousted by Prog running on Dem ticket – shame.

    Phil Scott is not a true conservative – most of his support – 2:1 is Democrat. Does the bidding of the Democrats as evidenced by the gentle treatment and praise he receives from party members. Democrats vote for him in primaries to halt challenger and then in the general. A conservaive Indy or well-funded true Republican challenger running as Indy could take him out bc vast majority of voters are swing.

  3. Tom Chase said it well.”Start now”. In 2018 republicans won 54.33% of the races where they had candidates on the ballots. The sad part is,they had less than 100 out of 150 running. In 2020 it happened all over again. The republicans ran less than 100 out of the 150 needed for a full ticket. If we start now, it means that we need to recruit people to run. I saw energy across the state prior to this election cycle but not in the recruiting stages. Do the math.In 2018 if we had run 150 people and won 54.33 % we would have had the majority in the house with 87 seats. Our problem come election time is not that we cant win ,it’s that we are not running enough people. Start recruiting people now.

  4. Thank you Mr. Turner for sharing your perspective. There will be a need for significant course correction in the next few years as the chickens of over promising ( pension funds), over spending (education), and impractical ideologically driven bills ( climate change) come home to roost just as the spigot from Washington will be closing.

    There is indeed a significant opening for the Republican Party to set things right. Vermont voters responded overwhelmingly in this election to Phil Scott’s practicality, competence, and fundamental decency. It is worth noting and may provide a path forward from being a minority to playing a far more important role in dealing with the challenges we face.

  5. One site that was deleted:
    tom chase December 4, 2020 at 7:15 am Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    For Reps, the next election starts NOW. Don’t relax, start bombarding the media air waves and print with reality arguments constantly. Meg Hanson and John Klar were impressive and would be great to turn VT around. Keep the ball rolling. In VT BS gets Liberal and sheeple attention, maybe truth can overcome.
    Regarding Zuckerman, this is his true corrupt position as stated by himself, the Socialist way. Seven Day & TNR articles, indicates the Dem way.
    Vermont Legislators Admit to Cheating the System. Are They Justified?

      • Hi Tom: Mine get ‘censored’ too – but appear shortly – up until the next day. This is the way algos work – thinking it’s a security feature and likely to keep TNR as ‘family-friendly’ as possible and prevent spammers from targeting site.

        “Fair Use” rules mandates only first paragraph of a story – or an excerpt can be re-published. I copy-paste pertinent info as originally published so site and their writers get credit up front – also to help users decide what to open up – I can’t read ’em all lol.

        Hint Alert: Try posting per usual then immediately the link as first comment – this has never failed.

  6. TNR isn’t the only site that censers true facts. I had very pertinent info relative to the subject even their own TNR articles.

  7. For Reps, the next election starts NOW. Don’t relax, start bombarding the media air waves and print with reality arguments constantly. Meg Hanson and John Klar were impressive and would be great to turn VT around. Keep the ball rolling. In VT BS gets Liberal and sheeple attention, maybe truth can overcome.

    Regarding Zuckerman, this is his true corrupt position as stated by himself, the Socialist way. Seven Day & TNR articles, indicates the Dem way.
    Vermont Legislators Admit to Cheating the System. Are They Justified?
    VT- Zuckerman is the problem, not the solution

    How has paying people to move to VT working out?

  8. Thankfully, Vermonters are recognizing that the progressive Democrats have done nothing but make life difficult for them. Taxes going up, second amendment rights being curtailed. Job losses and young people leaving the state for opportunities elseware to name a few. One of the things that really bothers me is the arrogance of these representatives. They act like we work for them instead of the other way around. Vermonters let’s keep the momentum going and give more of these folks their walking papers next election.

  9. I am glad Vermont’s GOP is starting to wake up.

    We need to flip at least 10 to 15 more seats in 2022.

    That may be hard, because FRAUD is alive and well in Vermont.

    I voted very early on election day.

    I fill in my ballot
    I walk over to the voting machine to feed it in.

    There are two people, a man and a woman, at the machine, feeding in ballots.
    When they saw me coming, they moved aside and smiled.

    I thought this was very unusual, as I have been voting in the same place for the past 35 years.

    The lady was holding about 25 to 35 more ballots close to her bosom.
    I could see they were filled in.

    I asked he : “Where do these ballots come from”
    She said: “Oh, they are from early voters”.


    Here is a reason CONDOS wants to have many people on registered voter lists that do not belong there.

    Any election has a turnout, say 70%,
    That means 30% of NAMES are available for illegal voting.

    Just fill in blank ballots and “vote” them (feed them into the machine),

    CONDOS, etc., likely knows what NAMES are dead, or moved way, or whatever.
    By the time someone MAY find out about the apparent fraud, the election is over and forgotten.

    • Willem Post
      I couldn’t agree with you more FRAUD is very much alive and well in Vermont.
      343.000 registered voters in Vt and 355,000 + votes were counted 88% reporting
      12,313 extra votes
      Now, where did these extra votes come from — the voting fairy???
      Condos swears there “WAS NO FRAUD ” IN VT,
      There were problems with the machines.
      I voted in person, screw this mail in. What really got me was you had to use a pencil instead of a pen.I asked why. I was told in case you make a mistake. Duh there was no eraser on the pencil. I was told “the Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos said a pencil; has to be used, the machine can not read the ink.” Excuse me — bur pen ink is darker than a pencil.
      Condos (who was born in NJ) must think we Vermonters are really stupid..!!

    • Willem Post: I don’t know what town you live in, but you should ask your town clerk who those people were at the ballot machine before creating suspicion, which too often leads to mistaken conspiracy theories. If your town practices like mine does (Lyndon), those two people are members of the Board of Civil Authority. One is a Democrat, the other is a Republican. Neither should be able to “fill out” ballots without the other one knowing what is going on. They technically guard the machine throughout the day and serve on shifts. They may also have been tasked with feeding the machine with early voter’s ballots, which appears to be the case in your example, which are given to them by the town clerk when he/she is prepared to feed them. (Prior to this year in Lyndon it was simply the town clerk who did it, but with the influx of mail-in ballots and social distancing requirements having to be enforced, I suspect your town clerk assigned the task to the two you saw because he/she was otherwise too busy.)

      Just so you know, I argued against mail-in ballots in the legislature this past year. My argument was premised on the lack of safeguards in the bill that other states who’ve been using it successfully have had in their laws. But at the moment I am unaware of ANY Vermont town clerk who has raised an alarm about any evidence of actual voter fraud, much less any claim it was widespread. I have no doubt somebody somewhere likely tried something, but lets not add to conspiracy theories without clear evidence. Undermining Vermont’s (and America’s) election system with speculation and without actual proof is not healthy for our country, in my humble opinion.

      Oddly enough, it would appear (at least in my own race) that more Republicans voted this year than in years past, which I attribute (at least in part) to Republican voters actually having a ballot sitting on their kitchen table which they decided to fill out and send in. I came closer to my Democratic seatmate than I ever have before, and this is my sixth election against her.

      My point here is that before anybody speculates about fraud in Vermont, obtaining actual evidence of same is critically important. Otherwise the discussion falls on deaf ears or, even worse, claims of paranoid conspiracy theories against the author. I’ve seen your posts before, and appreciate them for the work you put into investigating and articulating intricate details. If you have actual proof of fraud to support this post, I’d like to know what that is.

      • There are some reasonable concerns:

        We have dominion counting/voting machines?
        We had the same percentages for Trump as in previous election?
        I heard all the ballots were sent out by a company out of state, rather than the town clerks, is this true?
        Did we follow legislatures rules and regs, the only ones that have authority for making the laws? I don’t know. Did they come from the gov and sos, which would be unconstitutional?
        We can’t do an audit because of covid?
        Sorry that’s the lamest most convenient excuse ever.

        It wouldn’t be a bad thing to spend money and time and make for certain that Vermont was kosher on the voting. More people voting than when Bernie ran for President?

        There is reason for some concern, more so when you see what is going on nationally and what happened next door in NH.

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