Voters set up Scott-Zuckerman showdown

Gray, Milne to square off for lieutenant governor

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This story was updated at 8 a.m. Wednesday with new totals and an update on voter turnout.

 Republican Gov. Phil Scott and Democratic-Progressive Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman won their races in Tuesday's state primary election and will face each other in the general election this November, according to unofficial results. 

As of Wednesday morning, with 98 percent of precincts reporting, the Secretary of State's office had unofficial turnout at more than 155,000 voters --more than two-thirds of whom cast early ballots delivered by hand or by mail. That figure would smash the previous primary turnout record of 120,132 set in 2016.

The Associated Press called the Republican race for Scott shortly before 9 p.m., and the Democratic race for Zuckerman about half an hour later.

As of 8 a.m. Wednesday,  unofficial results provided by the Secretary of State's office had Scott with 72% of the vote with 270 of the state's 275 voting precincts reporting unofficial results, and 21.7% for Brookfield attorney and farmer John Klar.

"I'm thankful to all the Republicans, Democrats and independents who supported me in today's primary election," Scott said in a prepared statement. "The confidence you've placed in me during these incredibly unique and challenging times is an honor."

 Zuckerman, a Progressive running for the Democratic nomination, had nearly 45% of the vote, with former Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe with 35% and Bennington attorney Patrick Winburn a distant third with just over 7%.

"As we look toward emerging from this [COVID-19] crisis, we must lead in a new way. We must lead in a creative way. We must lead in an inclusive and innovative way," Zuckerman said in an address live-streamed on his website Tuesday night.

"There is no doubt we will have tough decisions to make but we cannot solely cut and slash programs and jobs, as a way to get ourselves out of the financial strain we are under. More than ever Vermonters need leadership that will provide support and guidance as we rebuild," Zuckerman said.

In a concession message, Holcombe said, "the work does not stop here."

"Our country is at a crossroads, and families are still counting on us to fight for paid family and medical leave, access to affordable health care, and a greener economy amidst the rising threats of climate change," she said. 

In the race for lieutenant governor, Molly Gray and Scott Milne appeared to have secured the Democratic and Republican nominations respectively, according to unofficial results.

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Gray had nearly 44% of the vote, followed by nearly 33% for State Senate President Tim Ashe, and Brenda Siegel  and Deb Ingram trailing well behind at 9.2% and 8.6%, respectively. 

"I am beyond humbled by the support for our campaign," Gray said, calling the support of her campaign staff "the honor of a lifetime."

 "Together we built a campaign that brought new voices into politics and that worked to unite our state around a bold vision for a brighter future," she said. 

Milne had 46.5% of the vote, according to unofficial results. Hansen trailed with just under 30% of the vote. 

"As someone whose business was profoundly impacted by coronavirus, I know how difficult this time has been for so many Vermonters whose lives and livelihoods have been upended," Milne said. "I look forward to putting my three decades of experience growing a small business to work helping Gov.  Scott re-open our economy safely and responsibly so Vermonters can look forward to a brighter, more prosperous future.”

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Winburn won his hometown of Bennington with 394 votes, beating Zuckerman with 346 and Holcombe with 279, according to unofficial results.

State Rep. Linda Joy Sullivan, D-Dorset finished second to Auditor Doug Hoffer, according to unofficial results. Sullivan,  in her first state-wide run, campaigned on her experience as an auditor and accountant and her political independence as reasons to supplant Hoffer.  But Hoffer garnered 52% of the vote,  with Sullivan earning 35%. 

One race that was decided quickly was U.S. Rep. Peter Welch's run for re-election. The Associated Press declared Welch the winner over activist Ralph Corbo of Wallingford at 8:10 p.m. Tuesday, as Welch quickly built an insurmountable lead.

Candidates from Southern Vermont spent yesterday meeting with voters and making a last-minute push for support as they sought victory in the state elections.

Siegel 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."

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Later, with unofficial results showing her and Ingram both trailing behind Gray and Ashe, Siegel said her campaign did "incredible work."

"We got to have a comprehensive conversation about privilege that has never been seen on the campaign trail before," Siegel said. "That needs to be talked about if we’re ever going to change who gets to lead."

"Everyone has the right to use the tools available to them ... and I trust whoever wins this race is going to fight to make sure we have an equal and level playing field," she added. 

In Bennington, Winburn was up with the crack of dawn on Tuesday, bound for a "honk and wave" 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 Holcombe and 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 Klar and 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.

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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