MONTPELIER -- Republican businessman Scott Milne defeated two fellow GOP hopefuls and a Libertarian's write-in bid Tuesday for the chance to face two-term Democratic incumbent Gov. Peter Shumlin in November.
Shumlin easily defeated H. Brooke Paige of Washington, who also ran and lost to incumbent William Sorrell in the Democratic primary for attorney general.
Milne defeated the two other declared Republicans on the ballot, Steve Berry of Wolcott and Emily Peyton of Putney, as well as Libertarian Dan Feliciano, who was urging Republicans to write his name in on the GOP ballot.
Milne, the president of a family-owned travel business, noted no challenger had defeated an incumbent governor in 52 years, since Democrat Phil Hoff did it to Republican F. Ray Keyser in 1962.
"I'm really happy and flattered and humbled that I'm the man in the shoes who's walking toward doing that," Milne, of Pomfret, said Tuesday evening.
Of the coming race against Shumlin, Milne said, "I think we're going to see a typical campaign from an incumbent with a lot of money and a lot of government money to dole out, but who's got a really bad record he's going to have to try to run away from."
Shumlin's campaign issued a statement quoting him as saying that serving as governor is "the greatest privilege of my life," touting his efforts to add jobs and saying he looked forward to the campaign.
Milne had the backing of party leaders including former Gov. Jim Douglas and Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.
Initial returns indicated that fewer than one in 10 registered Vermont voters ventured to the polls on Tuesday in a year when there's no presidential contest or election for one of the state's two U.S. Senate seats.
U.S. Rep. Peter Welch ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination in his bid for a fifth term. Three Republicans vied for the chance to challenge him in November, with Mark Donka and Donald Russell nearly neck-and-neck with votes still being counted Tuesday night.
The main excitement in the primary came from the write-in campaigns launched by Feliciano and by the Progressive Party's Dean Corren, a former Vermont House member from Burlington, in the race for lieutenant governor.
There were no declared Democrats for that office on the primary ballot, and Corren sought to take advantage of that opening by asking Democratic voters to write his name in. Nearly 4,000 write-in votes had been counted by 10 p.m. Tuesday but exactly how many went to Corren will not be clear until Wednesday at the earliest.
In Vermont's primary, voters are offered one ballot for each party, but must choose one, meaning that no one can vote for a Republican for one office and a Democrat for another, for example, unless the voter writes the candidate's name in.
Some prominent Democrats said they supported the incumbent Scott, a moderate Republican who is well-liked among the Democrats who control the Vermont Senate, over which he presides.
Scott said Tuesday evening that while some Democrats were supporting him, he knew of no organized effort to solicit write-in votes for him on the Democratic ballot, adding that he expected Corren to garner that party's nomination.