Oliver Olsen wins three nominations via write-ins
LONDONDERRY -- Former state Rep. Oliver Olsen had chosen to run for the Windham-Bennington-Windsor House District as an independent, meaning he would not be listed on any primary ballots.
It now appears, though, that his exclusion from the Aug. 26 ballot didn't matter.
Olsen on Friday produced certificates showing that he had secured the Democratic, Republican and Progressive nominations for the general election solely via write-in votes.
While there had been no Democrats or Republicans running for the seat in the primary, Olsen apparently defeated Progressive Teresa Ellsworth, who had been listed but received just six votes according to state tallies.
"I sincerely appreciate the support I have received from people across our district," Olsen said.
Ellsworth, a Londonderry resident who had been making her first political run in Vermont after relocating here from New York, declined to comment on the outcome Friday except to say she would be requesting a recount.
But on Saturday, Olsen said he had spoken with the Vermont Secretary of State's office and was told the race was not eligible for a recount due to the margin of his victory.
The three-county House district consists of the towns of Jamaica, Londonderry, Stratton, Weston and Winhall. It currently is represented by independent Tim Goodwin of Weston, but he announced in March that he would not seek a second term.
Goodwin endorsed Olsen, a Londonderry resident who served the district as a Republican from 2010 to 2012. He decided to run in the general election as an independent, explaining in March that the label is "a really good representation of who I am. I considered myself throughout my tenure (in the House) as independent and open-minded."
In Tuesday's primary, which featured extremely low turnout, it seems that there was a sufficient number of residents who didn't want to wait until November to vote for Olsen.
The Secretary of State's website, while not yet identifying the names of candidates who received write-ins, shows that Ellsworth received six votes on the Progressive ballot districtwide. But there were more than six write-in votes on that same ballot.
On the Democratic ticket, the state says there were 38 write-ins for the seat across the district. And there were 22 on the Republican side.
With both candidates residing in Londonderry, that town's detailed election documents illustrate both the low turnout and the write-in battle between Ellsworth and Olsen.
Ellsworth received five votes on Londonderry's Progressive ballot, while Olsen garnered five write-ins. On the Democratic ballot, there were 14 total write-ins -- nine for Ellsworth and five for Olsen. And on the GOP ballot, there were nine write-in votes -- all for Olsen.
In announcing his claim to all three parties' nominations in the wake of Tuesday's primary, Olsen said he "spent the summer working hard to canvas the five towns in his district" in spite of the fact that his name was not on the primary ballot.
"I have always believed in the importance of one-on-one conversations with members of our community, which informs my thinking and approach to solving problems," he said.
On Friday, Olsen said he wasn't campaigning during the primary season with the specific intent to ask for write-in votes. But he added that "it's not something I would discourage" when a voter would mention that possibility.
"I made a pledge to knock on every door in the district," Olsen said, noting the size of the three-county district.
"It's a marathon and not a sprint," Olsen said. "If you don't start early, you're not going to get to all these people."
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.
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