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Election 2018

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Bissonnette Again Announces He'll Resign From the Legislature

Posted By on Thu, Dec 27, 2018 at 5:17 PM

Clem Bissonnette - COURTESY OF CLEM BISSONNETTE
  • Courtesy of Clem Bissonnette
  • Clem Bissonnette
The strange fate of the Vermont House seat occupied by Clem Bissonnette grew stranger Christmas Eve.

That's when Bissonnette announced, again, that he would not serve in the legislature because he is moving to Guildhall. The longtime Winooski pol, a Democrat, posted on Front Porch Forum on Monday that he is relocating soon to the small town where his wife grew up.

 Meanwhile, Winooski City Councilor Hal Colston, who had sought the seat as a write-in candidate in November, announced on Wednesday that he hopes Gov. Phil Scott will appoint him to the seat.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Republican Super PAC Spent $826K on Phil Scott's Reelection Bid

Posted By on Tue, Nov 20, 2018 at 11:02 PM

Gov. Phil Scott (left) and Christine Hallquist - GLENN RUSSELL | JAMES BUCK
  • Glenn Russell | James Buck
  • Gov. Phil Scott (left) and Christine Hallquist
In the end, Republican Gov. Phil Scott and his Democratic challenger, Christine Hallquist, were both outspent in Vermont's 2018 gubernatorial race.

Reports filed Tuesday with the Secretary of State's Office show that the biggest spender was A Stronger Vermont, a political action committee funded by the Republican Governors Association. The super PAC doled out $826,366, mostly on pro-Scott television advertisements, including $101,396 in the closing days of the campaign.

Scott, who defeated Hallquist by a margin of 54 to 40 percent, raised $719,956 during his reelection campaign and spent $617,201 of it, according to his latest filing. Hallquist, a first-time candidate for public office, raised $590,719 and spent $563,422.

The reports are the first required of Vermont candidates since November 2, days before the November 6 election. Those who continue to raise or spend money must file one more report in December.

Compared to the 2016 gubernatorial race, 2018 was a relatively low-budget affair. Two years ago, Democratic nominee Sue Minter spent more than $2 million on her unsuccessful run for governor, while Scott spent more than $1.6 million.

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Monday, November 19, 2018

Number of Women Headed to Vermont Statehouse Drops by One

Posted By on Mon, Nov 19, 2018 at 10:55 AM

Ruth Hardy, executive director of Emerge Vermont and Addison County senator-elect - COURTESY OF RUTH HARDY
  • Courtesy of Ruth Hardy
  • Ruth Hardy, executive director of Emerge Vermont and Addison County senator-elect
The "Year of the Woman" didn’t upend the gender breakdown in Vermont politics. In fact, the number of female state legislators dropped from 72 to 71 after the November 6 elections.

Vermont continues to have a single female statewide officeholder — Treasurer Beth Pearce — and has yet to elect a woman to U.S. Congress.

Elsewhere in the country, a record number of women ran for, and were elected to, Congress — a trend generally attributed both to anger at President Donald Trump and to the #MeToo movement. Several races remain undecided but at least 125 women will serve in Congress, changing the makeup from 20 percent female to 23 percent, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

But in Vermont, three long-shot female congressional candidates, including Republican Anya Tynio, came up short in their respective bids to unseat incumbent Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) easily fended off eight opponents, including one woman.

Cary Brown, executive director of the Vermont Commission on Women, said she's "beyond impatient" to send a woman to Congress. But she isn’t disheartened by the outcome in state legislative races because “we are starting from such a high place.” In June 2018, Vermont was tied with Arizona for having the highest percentage of women — 40 percent — in its state legislature, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Defeated House Democrat Secures Recount in Grand Isle County

Posted By on Wed, Nov 14, 2018 at 8:28 PM

Ben Joseph - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Ben Joseph
Rep. Ben Joseph (D-North Hero) has successfully petitioned for a recount after finishing fourth in a race for two seats representing Grand Isle County and a slice of Milton in the Vermont House.

Official results from last week's election showed Joseph's fellow incumbent Democrat, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero), placing first with 2,100 votes and Republican challenger Leland Morgan coming in second with 1,984.

Morgan's nephew, Michael Morgan, finished third, with 1,952 votes, while Joseph claimed 1,926.

A candidate is eligible to request a recount if the margin between winner and loser is less than 5 percent of the total votes cast, "divided by the number of persons to be elected," according to Vermont statute.

Judge Robert Mello scheduled the recount for 9 a.m. on November 28 at the Grand Isle County Courthouse in North Hero, according to Joseph.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Compromise or Veto Overrides? Vermont Dems Have New Leverage Over Scott

Posted By on Wed, Nov 7, 2018 at 10:18 PM

House Majority Leader Jill Krowinski (D-Burlington) - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • House Majority Leader Jill Krowinski (D-Burlington)
Democrats and Progressives in the Vermont Statehouse now have the numbers to override a veto, giving them greater leverage over Republican Gov. Phil Scott. Whether they'll successfully wield that power to advance a progressive agenda remains to be seen.

On multiple occasions during Scott’s first term, the 53 House Republicans blocked Democrats and Progs from overriding his vetoes, which requires a two-thirds majority in the 150-member House. That bulwark blew up Tuesday night.

After reviewing unofficial election results from the Secretary of State’s Office, Seven Days has confirmed that Democrats gained 12 seats in the House while Progressives held onto their seven, bringing the total number of left-leaning lawmakers to 102. Meanwhile, Republicans lost 10 seats to leave them with 43 members, while independents lost two seats and now hold just five.

In the 30-member Senate, Democrats, who already had a two-thirds majority, picked up another seat, leaving Republicans with only six.

Democratic legislators, who have criticized Scott for being unwilling to work collaboratively, say he’ll no longer have that option. “The governor is gonna need to do more than just issue veto threats,” said Rep. Sam Young (D-Glover).

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He Couldn't Lose: Bissonnette to Represent Winooski in Vermont House

Posted By on Wed, Nov 7, 2018 at 6:18 PM

Clem Bissonnette - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Clem Bissonnette
Most politicians try to win elections. Clem Bissonnette tried not to. But on Tuesday, he won an eighth term in the Vermont House anyway.

By Wednesday afternoon, he decided to embrace the victory after all. Bissonnette announced that he will keep the seat, changing his plan to move out of Winooski this year and retire.

"I told people not to vote for me," 73-year-old Bissonnette explained to Seven Days. "Seeing I still got elected, it seems to me that the people want me to go back to Montpelier."

The Democratic lawmaker won a primary in August. But the next month, he announced his intention to retire to the Northeast Kingdom, where he and his wife, Sharon, had purchased a home. He resigned from the House. He told voters he didn't really want to be on the ballot — but it was too late to remove his name.

If he were not willing to serve, Republican Gov. Phil Scott would appoint someone to the seat. Now, that won't happen.

That's a double blow for Hal Colston.

He's the Winooski Democrat who decided to wage a write-in campaign for Bissonnette's seat. Colston, who ran a successful write-in campaign to get on the Winooski City Council in March, didn't manage a repeat this week.

The write-in votes totaled 939, while Bissonnette collected 1,184 votes and incumbent Rep. Diana González (P/D-Winooski) received 1,824 votes.

That tally gave González and Bissonnette return tickets to Montpelier — even though political observers assumed Bissonnette would decline the trip.

Colston said Wednesday that he had hoped, if he failed at the polls, to be considered for an appointment to the seat. Now that's not an option. But Colston still wants to go to Montpelier. "I'm interested in serving and I'll be running in the next election, on the ballot," Colston said.

Colston said he was pleased with the support he got as a write-in candidate. "I'm not feeling too shabby," he said.

"I wish him well," he said of Bissonnette.
Hal Colston - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Hal Colston
The change of heart for Bissonnette came as the results filtered in Tuesday night.

"I did not campaign," he said. "I did not spend a cent on the election. The people still elected me."

He entered local politics in 1970 and has served as city councilor, mayor and legislator for the Onion City.

He and his wife aren't planning to sell their Winooski home until the spring of 2019, Bissonnette said. He might then rent a room in Winooski to finish out his term in the legislature. It's also possible he would resign before the full two years is up, he said.

Bissonnette said he is sure he's heading to the Statehouse in January.

He said, "We're going to Montpelier and we're going to take it day by day.’’

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Vermonters Turn Out in Record Numbers for a Midterm Election

Posted By on Wed, Nov 7, 2018 at 5:24 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders votes Tuesday in Burlington - SOPHIE MACMILLAN
  • Sophie MacMillan
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders votes Tuesday in Burlington
Unofficial election results show that Vermont voters turned out Tuesday in record numbers for a midterm election.

According to data from the Secretary of State's Office, about 279,806 Vermonters cast ballots, roughly 57 percent of registered voters in the state.

Before Tuesday, the record high for a Vermont midterm came in 2006, when 262,568 people — 60.56 percent of registered voters at the time — cast ballots in the final midterms of president George W. Bush's tenure.
Secretary of State Jim Condos, who oversees Vermont’s elections, confirmed that 2018 may set a record for the most ballots cast in a midterm, but said the election likely won't set a record in terms of turnout percentage. He said that’s because the number of registered voters in Vermont is steadily rising.

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About Last Night: Seven Days' Full Coverage of Vermont's 2018 Elections

Posted By on Wed, Nov 7, 2018 at 11:46 AM

Sen. Bernie Sanders greets supporters Tuesday night at a Vermont Democratic Party event at the Hilton Burlington. - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders greets supporters Tuesday night at a Vermont Democratic Party event at the Hilton Burlington.
Vermont voters, like many Americans, delivered a split verdict in Tuesday's elections. They reelected a Republican governor, but they also bolstered the Democratic legislature — and they sent a self-described democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders, back to the U.S. Senate.

What else happened in Vermont on Election Day 2018? Seven Days has you covered. Click the links below or read on for our full coverage:

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Opinion
Walters: Democrats Gain Ground in Vermont Legislature

Posted By on Wed, Nov 7, 2018 at 3:31 AM

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • House Speaker Mitzi Johnson
Vermont Democrats appear to have won a veto-proof majority in the state House on Tuesday and bolstered their existing supermajority in the Senate, according to preliminary results from the Secretary of State's Office.

Among the victims of a surge in Democratic enthusiasm was Rep. Kurt Wright (R-Burlington), who was ousted Tuesday by New North End voters. He was the last remaining Republican to represent the Queen City in the House.

A few districts remained unsettled as of early Wednesday morning, but unofficial returns indicated that Democrats picked up 12 seats held by Republicans, plus two seats occupied by independents. The Dems also lost two seats to Republicans, while Progressives held on to all seven of theirs.

If the current tallies hold, a net gain of 12 seats for Democrats and Progressives would push their combined caucuses to 102 — two more than the two-thirds majority required to override gubernatorial vetoes. The House Republican caucus would be reduced to a mere 43.

In his victory speech Tuesday night at the DoubleTree by Hilton in South Burlington, Republican Gov. Phil Scott hinted at the daunting opposition he will face in his second term.

"By electing a governor of one party and a legislature [of] another, the message Vermonters have sent to us tonight is clear: 'Work together,'" Scott said. That may signal a new approach, after a first term that saw 14 gubernatorial vetoes.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Zuckerman, Down-Ballot Democrats Win Vermont’s Statewide Races

Posted By and on Tue, Nov 6, 2018 at 11:00 PM

Lt. Gov. Davis Zuckerman - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Lt. Gov. Davis Zuckerman
Updated at 1:38 a.m. on November 7, 2018.

Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a Progressive and Democrat, will return to the Statehouse for a second two-year term.

The organic farmer from Hinesburg beat out Rep. Don Turner (R-Milton), the House minority leader, in the race for Vermont's No. 2 job. With all but six precincts reporting late Tuesday night, Zuckerman led Turner 57 percent to 39 percent.

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