Most incumbent candidates unharmed in Tuesday primary despite state’s economic collapse

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.

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%.

Chittenden County

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%.

Caledonia County

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.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

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.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

13 thoughts on “Most incumbent candidates unharmed in Tuesday primary despite state’s economic collapse

  1. Decades ago, Vermont conservatives and Vermont sportsman got POed at Republican Congressman Peter Smith. In the next election they didn’t show up to vote or they did write ins for another candidate. As a result. Bernie Sanders was elected to Congress and has been there for 30 years. How did that work out for conservative Vermonters?

    So here we are in 2020 and conservatives and POed gun owners still can’t see the political forest through the trees. Gov. Scott has disappointed me as well over the years but if you all stay home or vote a write in candidate instead of voting for Scott, you are going to put Bernie’s political child in charge of our state.

    You say it will make no difference because Scott is a democrat! Good God, think again.

  2. Looks like democrats will take the governor seat. This state will be one party rule. Probably looking to sell our house and move away before this gets worse.

  3. Phil Scott and Scott Milne blame COVID for our economic problems. No, the economic collapse and destruction of the livelihoods of so many people were the direct result of Phil Scott’s oppressive and unconstitutional shutdown. There were a total of 58 deaths across the entire state throughout the whole course of this “pandemic”, compared to how many during any normal flu season. The “curve”, if there ever was one, has been flat for a long time now, while our governor’s restrictions on business, religious and social gatherings, and travel continue. I don’t trust the ones who caused the problem to fix it, and I cannot vote for either one of these RINOs. Real conservatives, who are supposed to be the base of the Republican party, no longer have a voice. I am too old and have too much invested here to move. We may just have to ride out a term under Democratic rule before enough people come to their senses. I don’t look forward to it, as it will be a rough ride.

  4. If I have to make a prediction I’m seeing Zucker as the new gov. I see radial leftist agendas being pushed even further in Vermont, and taxes being raised even more. Vermont is gone

  5. This is why I’m selling my two houses and moving my family and our family business over to NH. If Klar had won, we would’ve stayed. It sucks but I don’t trust those in control of VT and where it is headed.

    • I feel so bad about this. But understand. It is a decision that takes years. I am a Native Vermonter. I just cannot do it. My Dad remembers the 1950-1980 as being a Republican State. But at 94 he just wonders “What happened”

      • I get it Gerry as a NH native.
        Try hearing people say they are leaving your state to get further away from Vermont and Massachusetts.

    • Pamela we are having one hell of a time over here holding down our own fort since we are so invaded ourselves.
      NH was a Red State when I was raised here and it’s not now thanks to the same deep blue states that you are dealing with.
      If you are moving here, I sure hope you are going to join the battle because we still have a chance here to turn things around. We aren’t so far gone yet that all our natives have been driven out and replaced like Vermont has had happen.
      We welcome you, happily in fact, but if you go wobbly on us it won’t go over well because we are getting pretty ugly over here ourselves about the whole situation.
      Life is hard enough without all this baloney.

      • I remember hearing about the New Hampshire Free State Project around the year 2008. It sounded tempting, but I had bought land in Vermont in 1978 when this state was red, and recently begun building on it. Their purpose was to gather like-minded people in one place to unite for liberty and limited government. I don’t know how active they are now, or where they are in reaching their goals, but they have a website at I am still holding out, and hoping we can change back Vermont.

        • I don’t think they’ve turned out very well.
          There are a lot of nuts and actual Anarchists that got involved with that group that came here because they thought it was the Wild West here.. and then in finding out it’s not, they want to strip us back to 1784 and make it that way again.
          So we are fighting the people that want to destroy on both sides.
          We love Freedom, but we like civility, manners and morals too- that is what is required for so much Freedom to work, and they aren’t too big on that aspect of it. And generally speaking, no one likes outta staters moving in and then proceeding to wreck what you have going on.

          I feel bad about so many Vermonters that have left- because it just makes the battle that much harder for the ones left as they are reduced in numbers. In fact, it’s why I’ve held out in my own state. But it is getting harder and harder I understand myself. None of us can afford it up here anymore- and that means we can’t do well for our kids and we are leaving them in a bad situation- it’s feeling more and more like. I’m really understanding what the phrase “Being stuck on a Democrat Plantation” means.. you feel an urge to leave while you can, when the writing on the wall looks so clear.
          And of course, none of us even recognize our states anymore at all.
          Much of what we’ve built is being eroded away against our Will.
          This is why I have said over and over that retaining our population is of such importance.. but the powers that be don’t agree with that of course.
          They are thrilled when we leave because they know we are being replaced by deep blue staters.
          I feel like New England as a whole, is really teetering on the edge now.
          And although my state of NH is better off than many, the more deeply blue all of our neighbors are going, the more it feels like we are on a sinking island here.
          I am really praying we can all hang on and turn things around. But seeing how this Primary went, it’s not looking good.

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