*** UPDATE: Brian Dubie has conceded. Peter Shumlin will be the next governor of Vermont. Click here for archived video of Dubie's concession speech, and scroll down for more from the Dubie campaign.***
**UPDATE #2: Peter Shumlin declared victory before a raucous crowd of supporters at the Hilton in Burlington. He thanked Dubie for his graciousness and service along with family and campaign manager Alex MacLean. He then spoke to the challenges & opportunity ahead.***
The electoral tidal wave that swept Republicans into power in the U.S. House barely landed on Vermont's shores.
In the main event — the race for Vermont governor — early returns ran heavily in favor of Republican Brian Dubie, but as the night wore on Democrat Peter Shumlin began to close the gap. Before midnight, he had passed Dubie and remained ahead.
The night felt a lot like the five-way Democratic primary, but with fewer lead changes between the top vote-getters. The morning after feels a lot like the Democratic primary, too. We just don't know for sure who won as results from about 20 towns were missing as of about 5 a.m.
With almost 95 percent of the returns in, WCAX is reporting Shumlin is ahead of Dubie by a 113,260 to 108,892.
The Dubie campaign wanted to wait until all returns came in before deciding their next steps. If the margin of victory is less than two percent, the loser can request a recount. Neither side would declare victory last night, but both addressed supporters and suggested they go home, get some rest and return today for more information.
Dubie is expected to discuss the election results at his campaign headquarters at 9:30 a.m.
The GOP picked up a net single seat in the Vermont Senate and possibly two in the Vermont House, nothing to put a major dent in the sizeable majorities Democrats hold in both chambers.
In the down-ticket races, the GOP held two of their seats but fell short of picking up a third. Republican Phil Scott easily won the race for lieutenant governor over Democratic challenger Steve Howard. Scott will succeed Republican Brian Dubie, who ran for governor.
To perhaps the suprise of many political observers (aside from this one), Incumbent Republican Auditor Tom Salmon easily bested his challenger, political newcomer Doug Hoffer who ran as a Democrat-Progressive.
In the race for Secretary of State, longtime State Sen. Jim Condos defeated Republican Jason Gibbs, a longtime aide to Gov. Jim Douglas and a former commissioner of Forest, Parks and Recreation.
In the other statewide contests, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D), Rep. Peter Welch (D), State Treasurer Jeb Spaulding (D) and Attorney General Bill Sorrell (D) easily fended off nominal challneges. Both Leahy and Welch won with nearly 65 percent of the vote.
The GOP fared better at the local level, but made no major inroads.
In the Vermont House, the GOP picked off two incumbents — Rep. Jeff Young in St. Albans and Rep. Megan Smith in Killington. But, they lost two incumbents — Rep. David Ainsworth and Rep. Joe Krawczyk. The Ainsworth loss was only by two votes, so expect a recount in that race.
The GOP also held onto two open seats formerly held by Republicans — one in Vernon and one in Derby — despite strong challenges from Democrats.
The GOP also picked up an open seat in Colchester that had been held by a Democrat. A few other seats sprinkled throughout Vermont were decided by only a handful of votes, so in those races it's expected there will be recounts.
If the GOP nets two seats, that'll give them 50 seats in the 150-seat chamber.
The Progressives fended off a strong challenge in Burlington to ensure they have at least one seat from the Queen City. Chris Pearson, a former state rep, won a seat in a two-seat district. The other seat is held by Democratic Rep. Kesha Ram, who was also reelected.
In the Senate, the GOP picked up two Senate seats, but lost one, for net gain of one. That'll make the new Senate lean Democratic by a 22-8 margin.
In a closely-watched Senate race in Washington County, incumbents Democrat Ann Cummings and Republican Bill Doyle won reelection. The third seat, vacated by Phil Scott, was nabbed by Democrat-Progressive Anthony Pollina.
In another key Senate race — the six-seat Chittenden County district — all four incumbents won. Those incumbents were Democrats Tim Ashe, Ginny Lyons, Hinda Miller and Republican Diane Snelling won reelection. The other two seats were picked up by Democrats Sally Fox and Philip Baruth, which surprised many observers who expected Republican Charlie Smith to pick up one of the open seats.
* * Update w/ details from Brian Dubie's concession speech **
With his wife Penny Dubie at his side and campaign workers looking on Republican Brian Dubie conceded the governor's race to Democrat Peter Shumlin.
Dubie said he had talked to Shumlin briefly and congratulated the senate president pro tem, and now governor-elect, on his victory. He pledged his help and support to ensure a smooth transition.
Despite the hard-fought race that, at times, had a very negative tone, Dubie said he had no regrets.
"I have no regrets about this campaign ,we focused on the issues," said Dubie. "This was an issue-oriented campaign. The campaign is over, the voters have spoken and the best thing I can do is pledge my support to unite behind governor-elect Shumlin."
Dubie asked his more than 111,000 supporters to join him and uniting behind Shumlin. "It's time to unite behind senator Shumlin and unite behind the common goal of making Vermont a better state," said Dubie.
He also said he is making no immediate, or long-term, career plans. For starters, he said he was going to call many of his supporters, donors and volunteers to personally thank them for their hard work over the past year.
Dubie said he saw no reason to seek a recount as he didn't think it would change the overall results.
"Any prolongment of the vote wouldn't change the result," said Dubie. "That's my analysis."
Governor-elect Shumlin will hold a victory speech at noon. I'll try to livestream the speech, and will post a video and updates here later.
** UPDATE #2 **
"I can't tell you how humbled and honored I am to be the governor-elect of the great state of Vermont," Shumlin said to thunderous applause from about 200 supporters and campaign volunteers.
Shumllin said he talked to Dubie just a few hours earlier and accepted Dubie's concession.
"I want to thank Brian for his graciousness, his extraordinary service to the state of Vermont as its lieutenant governor," said Shumlin. "We were friends before the election, we will be friends going forward and I thank Brian for his service."
Shumlin said Vermonters responded positively to his vision of Vermont's future — one he said is full of opportunity.
"It's time to close the door on those who are doom and gloom about Vermont's future," said Shumlin. "We have tough things to do and today we begin that for every single Vermonter, every single day to make your future better. That struggle starts today."
Campaign manager Alex MacLean received a special shout-out from Shumlin for her efforts.
MacLean will play a key role in Shumlin's transition team. Co-chairs of his transition team will be former Gov. Howard Dean and Liz Bankowski, who served as chief of staff to former Gov. Madeleine Kunin and is a former executive at Ben & Jerry's.
More transition team members will be announced tomorrow. Former State Sen. Susan Bartlett is expected to play a key role in the transition team — largely in dealing with the forthcoming budget that Shumlin will present to the Legislature. It's rumored that Bartlett will serve as the next Secretary of Administration, which oversees much of the finance and budgeting of state government.
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