Local candidates for statewide office make last push
Readers: Please check reformer.com for updated results Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
By Greg Sukiennik
Candidates from Southern Vermont spent yesterday meeting with voters and making a last-minute push for support as they sought victory in the state primary elections.
Brenda Siegel of Newfane, seeking the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, visited polling places in Orange and Windsor counties with her 18-year-old son Anja before they returned home to vote. It was her son's second election, but his first with his mom on the ballot.
"I've brought him to the polls with me every time since he was a baby to instill the importance of voting," Siegel said. Of her chances, Siegel said she was "really hopeful and really proud of the work we've done."
In Bennington, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Patrick Winburn was up with the crack of dawn on Tuesday, bound for a "honk and waive" in Rutland and some sign deliveries in towns along Routes 7 and 7A.
Winburn said he wasn't nervous. In fact, he was confident that he'd win Bennington County and do well enough among rural voters to defeat Rebecca Holcombe and Lt. Governor David Zuckerman for the nomination.
"In a few hours, I will have done everything I can do to win," Winburn said Tuesday afternoon.
By Tuesday, when voting opened, many Vermonters had already mailed or handed in their ballots.
More than 150,000 Vermonters had requested vote-by-mail ballots for early voting, and two-thirds of that number had returned their ballots to their town or city clerk by Monday, raising a strong possibility that the primary would break the 2016 record for primary turnout.
Turnout was driven partly by multiple contested races for statewide seats, including Republican and Democratic primaries for both governor and lieutenant governor. The governor's race featured Zuckerman, Holcombe and Winburn on the Democratic side, and Brookfield attorney and farmer John Klar challenging incumbent Gov Phil Scott on the Republican side.
Scott appeared in a debate but did not campaign, saying he could not devote the time apart from the COVID-19 crisis. But Vermont's response to the pandemic has remained one of the most successful in the United States, and a poll showed 83 percent of Vermonters approved of Scott's handling of the crisis.
During his regular Tuesday news conference about the virus, Scott said he would discuss the election after the results become known.
"Obviously, we want to get through this qualifying round," Scott said. "We'll see what happens tonight. I'm not sure that it's a lock-in that I win the primary so I think we'll reflect that after tonight."
Three other Southern Vermont candidates were on the ballot in statewide races on Tuesday: Meg Hansen of Manchester, who sought the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor; state Rep. Linda Joy Sullivan of Dorset, who challenged incumbent Auditor Doug Hoffer in the Democratic primary; and Emily Peyton, who was among challengers to Gov. Phil Scott in the Republican primary.
Greg Sukiennik covers Vermont government and politics for New England Newspapers. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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