Brattleboro voters show up; Kornheiser defeats Stuart in Windham-2-1

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BRATTLEBORO — Turnout during the primary election Tuesday was higher than Town Clerk Hilary Francis anticipated.

"It's just been busier than normal," she said.

With three hours left at the polls, Francis had already seen 1,800 ballots come in including those submitted via early voting. In 2010, there had been 2,229 ballots. And in 2016, there had been 2,021.

"I think it's important to vote in primaries," said Beatrice Blake, of Brattleboro.

Blake said she voted for Christine Hallquist after seeing the gubernatorial candidate's stance on climate change and her experience working with cooperatives.

It is Blake's hope that Democrats "send a message" to President Trump and the Republicans in Congress during the midterm elections.

"From what I hear, the progressive wing is being well received in a lot of places where it wasn't perceived to be," she said.

Blake said she was not impressed with Wayne Estey, the Brattleboro resident who ran against Sen. Becca Balint and Sen. Jeanette White for the Windham District.

"I don't feel comfortable sharking the table," said Estey, who stood away from other candidates in the parking lot for the Municipal Center.

The phrase has to do with the way a pool player may distract his or her opponent during a game.

"You could almost tell who votes for you because the ones who don't pretty much don't make eye contact," said Estey.

If he did not get one of the two Democratic nominations, he said he would not be attempting a bid at Senate again. However, another role in politics isn't out of the question.

"The initial goal was to move the needle and I've seen that happen," said Estey.

He said candidates were starting to talk about child care, weatherization and moving governmental offices to the county.

Balint said she felt the turnout was much higher than usual.

"Which is great," she said.

In the hotly contested race for state representative in the West Brattleboro district known as Windham-2-1, Emilie Kornheiser toppled incumbent Valerie Stuart by a vote of 589-227.

Tuesday's primary election marked the first time Stuart was challenged for the seat in her eight years representing Windham-2-1. Francis said more than 50 percent of early voting had been done by voters in that district.

Stuart served on the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development, and the House Committee on Education before that. She previously said she wanted to continue looking at funding technical education programs, marketing Vermont in an effort to retain and attract younger people, making the state more affordable for families, having women better represented in careers across industries and fighting climate change.

Before the votes were tallied, Stuart said she had seen a big showing at the polls.

"We want people to vote, we've made it easier for people to vote, we want public engagement," she said. "It's good to see."

Kornheiser launched her campaign in April.

"I decided to run because I really wanted the lens of politics to be expanded a little bit," she said at the time. "I want people in Montpelier to be represented by someone who understands what it means to live here and what the variety of experiences of most of the citizens in the state looks like."

Kornheiser has worked in early childhood development as a case manager, a specialist for the state's Promise Community initiative and a director for the state's Early Childhood Action Plan. She helped found the Windham County Action Network. She also serves as a Brattleboro Town Meeting member.

Her campaign for Legislature focused on livable wages, fighting climate change, strengthening the state's health care system, education, affordable housing, social supports and access to high quality utilities.

Before the votes were tallied, Kornheiser said the election felt "busy and exciting" and called it "the middle of a really great journey for the community."

"I think our community really wants a full, transparent, dynamic election experience," she said.

Estey called Kornheiser "very popular."

Kurt Daims and Mark Tully were outside the Municipal Center getting signatures for a petition that would allow 16-and-17-year-old residents to vote in local elections, join Brattleboro school boards and become Town Meeting members.

"Big turnout today," said Daims.

"Tons and tons and tons," said Tully.

Daims said the youth vote would help retain younger people and inspire older people to vote.

Rep. Mollie Burke, Windham-2-2, was impressed with the turnout, too.

"You see the town coming through, not just your own constituents but everyone in town," she said. "It's an event."

She added, "It is very nice to see there is so much turnout in the primary."

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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