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.
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.”