With Vermont facing a potential $400 million revenue shortfall resulting from Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s coronavirus shutdown orders, voters showed up at Tuesday’s primary election and gave the governor and most other incumbents a thumbs-up on their performance.
More than 155,000 Vermonters cast votes in Tuesday’s primary, smashing the 2016 primary record in which approximately 120,000 people voted.
In the governor’s race, Scott easily defeated four primary challengers, earning 73% of the vote. Brookfield farmer and attorney John Klar came in second with 22%.
In the race for lieutenant governor, Scott Milne, president of Milne Travel, defeated former Vermonters for Healthcare Freedom director Meg Hansen by about 46% to 33%.
On the Democratic side, Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman had a strong win in the race for governor with about 45% of the vote. Former Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe came in second place with about 35%.
In the race for lieutenant governor, Assistant Attorney General Molly Gray, a Democrat, won with 44% of the vote, besting Senate President Pro Ten Tim Ashe, who garnered about 33%.
Gray’s victory surprised some election-watchers on Twitter, including the University of Vermont political science professor Peter Henne.
can someone explain to me Molly Gray's victory over Tim Ashe? Don't see a lot of difference on the issues. The "generational" claim isn't really much since they're 7 years apart in age. Are we really discounting the important of legislative experience this much? #vtpoli
— Peter Henne (@pehenne) August 12, 2020
Winning the Republican race to challenge Democrat U.S. Rep. Peter Welch was Miriam Berry, a registered nurse from Essex who won 25% of the vote. Runners up were Justin Tuthill from Pomfret, Anya Tynio from Charleston, and Jimmy Rodriguez from Montpelier. Welch won his primary with over 90%.
In other races, two new Democrats entered the top six slots in the race for Chittenden County state Senate. Incumbent Sen. Virginia “Ginny” Lyons from Williston was the top vote-getter with 11.14%, but challenger Kesha Ram from Burlington came in second with 11%. Incumbent Sen. Michael Sirotkin from South Burlington got 8% of the vote, Sen. Phil Baruth from Burlington got 8%, and Thomas Chittenden of South Burlington got 7%. Progressive Sen. Chris Pearson narrowly defeated challenger June Heston to win the sixth position.
On the Republican side of the Chittenden County race for Senate, Tom Chastenay of Milton got 13% of the vote and Ericka Redic of Burlington got 11%.
In another state Senate race, incumbent Sen. Joe Benning and Charles Wilson, both Republicans, were nominated with 38% and 26% of the vote, respectively. For the Democrats, incumbent Sen. Jane Kitchel won 43% of the vote, and Matthew Choate garnered 30%. The district has two seats.
Republicans running for two Orange-1 House district seats were led by incumbent Rodney Graham, with 31% of the vote. Challenger Samantha Lefebvre from Orange came in second with 17%. Just missing the cut was Levar Cole from Chelsea. On the Democrat’s side, incumbent Rep. Carl Demrow from Corinth got 32% of the vote while challenger Kate MacLean from Chelsea garnered 31%. Susan Davis of Washington had 24%.
Scott said in a statement that the coronavirus, which has killed 58 mostly senior Vermonters this year, is “a once-in-a-century public health emergency and the economic crisis it’s created.” Scott’s economic shutdown is estimated to cost Vermont around $400 million in state revenue through the end of the next fiscal year.
Zuckerman, who will now face-off against Scott for governor in the Nov. 3 general election, touted his record, which includes promoting sweeping energy reforms, such as the Global Warming Solutions Act.
“The reality is I have put forward visionary ideas for years and it’s going to take serious creativity and vision to build our way out of this pandemic economically, to get our schools open, to get people back to work, and to put resources into the system, into weatherizing people’s homes of people who are struggling, weatherizing senior’s homes, that’s gonna put Vermonters back to work,” he said.
Milne, who will face off against Molly Gray in the general election in the lieutenant governor’s race, also sent out a statement.
“This election is about who is the best candidate to be a trusted partner to Governor Scott in getting our economy back on track and putting people back to work,” the statement read.
CORRECTION: In the Caledonia Senate district, Republicans Joe Benning and Charles Wilson, and Democrats Jane Kitchel and Matthew Choate, all won nominations in Tuesday’s primary. The original published version incorrectly stated that only one member of each party won nomination.