White, Balint win Democratic Senate nods


BRATTLEBORO -- State Sen. Jeanette White and Brattleboro resident Becca Balint won the two Democratic nominations for Windham County Senate on Tuesday, beating out two other Democrats.

With numbers available on Wednesday from all 20 of the district's towns, White had 2,265 votes followed by Balint's 1,687. In third place was Roger Allbee with 1,244, and Joan Bowman ended up with 449.

White, a Putney resident who is seeking a seventh term in the Senate, thanked those who cast ballots on a day when turnout was light. "I was really, really nervous this time, because I realized how much I wanted to go back," she said Tuesday night. "I am very excited about it and just grateful to the voters for having faith in me."

The day after her victory, Balint said she was "stunned" and "thrilled that we got the vote out." She said she specifically had sough to connect with more younger voters.

"I really feel like we worked really hard to pull in voters who don't normally vote in primaries," Balint said. "I do think that made a difference."

The two Senate seats cover all of Windham County except for Wilmington, which is in the Bennington County Senate District, and Londonderry, which lies in the Windsor County Senate District.

No Republicans filed to run in the primary for Windham County Senate. Though there were some write-in votes cast on GOP ballots for Senate Tuesday, it was not clear who had received those votes.

Also on primary ballots were two uncontested Liberty Union candidates -- Aaron Diamondstone and Jerry Levy.

The Democratic Senate field included only one incumbent because current Sen. Peter Galbraith, a Townshend Democrat, announced in June that he would not pursue a new term.

That left White, who touted her experience as well as her leadership of the Senate Government Operations Committee, to run against Allbee, Balint and Bowman -- none of whom had held a state elected office before.

Allbee had experience in state government, as he served as Vermont's state Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets from 2007 to 2011. The Townshend resident is the current chief executive officer of Grace Cottage Hospital in Townshend, having received that title after the hospital's board elevated him from interim CEO earlier this year.

Balint previously worked as a teacher at schools in Guilford, Marlboro and Londonderry. She is a consultant as well as a member of the Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies Workforce Group. Balint also serves as a Brattleboro Town Meeting representative and a Brattleboro Development Review Board member.

Bowman, of Putney, is a health-care navigator at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. In the 2012 elections, she had served as a Democratic field organizer for Windham County.

The county Democrats organized three public forums for the party's Senate candidates in Townshend, Bellows Falls and Brattleboro. A fourth forum, organized by Windham Community Organization, was held in the town of Windham.

The Windham forum showed differences among the candidates on a hot topic there -- windpower. A developer is studying the potential for a large-scale wind-turbine site in the towns of Windham and Grafton, though Windham's town plan prohibits commercial turbines. Allbee and Bowman both said they would support allowing individual towns to block a commercial energy project, while White and Balint said they could not back such veto power given the importance of regional and statewide energy plans.

Campaign contributions were another source of division. White, who has been deeply involved in recent changes to the state's campaign-finance law, said she does not favor banning corporate donations to candidates due to a variety of complications. Allbee, however, said he would take no money from corporations and political-action committees.

At the final forum in Brattleboro, a question about marijuana legalization also elicited differing responses. White said she fully supports legalizing and regulating the drug, while the other three Democrats said they were not sure.

Balint was the race's top fundraiser, reporting $13,121 in contributions and $5,465 in expenditures by the Aug. 15 filing deadline.

In the campaign's final week, Balint and White were endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Phil Baruth, who dubbed them a "Democratic dream team for Windham County." Galbraith endorsed Allbee, saying he disagreed with Balint and White on "some key issues" including campaign contributions and energy-generation policy.

In the end, White was an easy winner. The incumbent senator was among the top two vote-getters in each of 18 towns for which results were available Wednesday.

Allbee proved to be a popular candidate, coming in first or second in a dozen of those towns. He garnered 100 votes in his hometown of Townshend, more than the other three Senate candidates combined.

But Balint took a commanding lead by winning big on her home turf, grabbing 699 votes in Brattleboro compared with Allbee's 268. White received 751 votes in Brattleboro.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275. Follow him on Twitter @MikeReformer.


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