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Election 2020

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Gray Defeats Milne in Vermont Lieutenant Governor Race

Posted By on Tue, Nov 3, 2020 at 8:40 PM

Scott Milne and Molly Gray at a debate - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Scott Milne and Molly Gray at a debate
Editor's note: As of midnight on Election Day, this story is no longer being updated. For the latest Vermont results, click here.

Democrat Molly Gray defeated Republican Scott Milne on Tuesday night to become Vermont’s next lieutenant governor, making her the fourth woman ever elected to the state’s No. 2 office.

Gray, a 36-year-old assistant attorney general, claimed victory around 11 p.m. Tuesday night during a speech at the Great Northern restaurant in Burlington’s South End, where she lives. Though the Associated Press had not yet called the race, Gray led Milne by eight points — 50 to 42 percent — with 243 of 275 precincts reporting, according to unofficial results from the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office.

"Our next generation is here, and we are ready to lead,” Gray said in her victory speech. “Together I know we can take Vermont forward. I also know we can be an example for the nation for how to come together, work together, put divisiveness aside, and succeed together."

Milne, who did not appear at any public event on election night, could not immediately be reached for comment. But he called Gray to concede shortly after her victory speech, according to her campaign. And in a concession tweet late Tuesday night, he wrote, "I send sincere congratulations to @mollyforvermont on her victory this evening, and wish her success moving forward."

Gray’s victory caps a remarkable rise, from an unknown player in Vermont politics to one of its highest ranking officials. It also means Vermont will continue to have its top two office holders from different parties: Earlier in the evening, Republican Gov. Phil Scott won a third term, easily fending off a challenge from outgoing Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a Progressive/Democrat.

The LG's race was the most closely watched campaign in Vermont heading into Election Day. A September poll found it to be in a statistical dead heat, and many viewed it as the only statewide race that truly felt as if it could go either way on Tuesday.

The candidates provided a clear contrast in their visions for how the state could best recover from the coronavirus pandemic. 
Gray kicked off her bid in late February, several weeks before Vermont's first coronavirus case. But instead of changing her message in light of the pandemic's upheaval, Gray doubled down, arguing that it had only further demonstrated the importance of her top issues: expanding broadband, improving access to affordable childcare and instituting a paid family leave program. She argued that investments in such programs were the only way for Vermont to retain young people and attract new residents. 

Milne, meantime, declared his run in May, when the pandemic had already ground the state's economy to a halt. His message was one of austerity, centered around the belief that Vermont needs to ensure that its small businesses survive the next two years. He and his supporters argued that his business background made him the best choice to help Vermont weather its COVID-related economic crisis.
Voters also had a fair share of non-policy related differences to consider as Gray and Milne clashed throughout the campaign on issues ranging from their individual voting records to the types of outside influence peddlers who were supporting their candidacies.

Much of that heat was directed at Gray. The Democrat faced repeated questions about whether her 15 months living in Switzerland from 2017 and 2018 made her ineligible to serve as lieutenant governor under a constitutional requirement that Vermont LGs must have "resided in this State four years next preceding the day of election."

She was also plagued by criticism from across the political spectrum for not casting ballots in the four national elections between 2008 and 2018.

Yet her win Tuesday suggested that the perceived marks were not enough to tamp down the enthusiasm surrounding her candidacy.

Some of Gray’s most ardent support came from top current and former Democratic officials. She received endorsements from former governors Madeleine Kunin and Peter Shumlin well before the primary. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) — both of whom Gray has known for years — then backed her campaign shortly after she received the nomination. Gray interned for Leahy’s office while she was a student at the University of Vermont and went on to work for Welch, first on his 2006 campaign and later as a staffer in his Washington, D.C., office.

During an online event hosted by the Vermont Democratic Party, Leahy praised his former intern for running an “extraordinary campaign” that “focused on the needs of Vermonters.” He then took a swipe at Milne, who ran an unsuccessful campaign to defeat Leahy in 2016.

“Her opponent, not surprisingly, ran a relentlessly negative campaign,” Leahy said of Milne, adding that he was proud Gray "lifted her campaign above the attacks."

Gray, too, made note of the campaign’s tenor during her victory speech. She said she watched Milne center his campaign around “misleading and nasty personal attacks,” and she criticized him for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on television ads in “an attempt to buy an election, destroy my reputation and diminish my integrity.”

“Tonight, we rejected that,” she said. “And you can rest assured that as Vermont's next lieutenant governor, I will do what I have done throughout this campaign, and put people before politics, every single day.”

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Phil Scott Wins Third Term as Governor of Vermont

Posted By and on Tue, Nov 3, 2020 at 8:25 PM

Gov. Phil Scott declares his victory speech Tuesday in a video shot in his motorcycle garage. - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Gov. Phil Scott declares his victory speech Tuesday in a video shot in his motorcycle garage.
Editor's note: As of midnight on Election Day, this story is no longer being updated. For the latest Vermont results, click here.

Republican Gov. Phil Scott has won a third term as governor of Vermont, according to the Associated Press.

With 246 of 275 precincts reporting as of 11:59 p.m., Scott was leading his Progressive/Democratic challenger, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, 67 to 27 percent, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

“Vermonters have spoken and I’m humbled to earn your support once again,” Scott said in a video address taped in his motorcycle garage. “Your faith and trust in me is the greatest honor of my life and I will continue to work every single day to make the lives of Vermonters better, our economy stronger and our state more affordable for families and businesses.”

During an online event hosted by the Vermont Democratic Party on Tuesday evening, Zuckerman conceded that he had lost the race and said he had congratulated Scott moments earlier. Zuckerman said he had told the governor he was “ready to stand by him for our democracy, for the decency that we represent in Vermont.”

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Senator Crashes on Icy Road on Her Way to Polling Place

Posted By on Tue, Nov 3, 2020 at 7:52 PM

Sen. Ruth Hardy's totalled Honda Civic - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Sen. Ruth Hardy's totalled Honda Civic
COVID-19 wasn't the only potential hazard Vermonters faced on Election Day.  State Sen. Ruth Hardy (D-Addison) crashed her car on an icy country road  on her way to campaign at a polling place.

The senator said she was driving alone from Huntington to Starksboro around 11 a.m. when she lost control of her Honda Civic on a downhill section of Hinesburg Hollow Road. The car slid into a ditch and flipped onto its roof.

Central Vermont received several inches of snow overnight in its first significant snowfall of the season, and Hardy hadn’t yet get gotten her snow tires put on.

“Now my car is totaled, so I won’t need snow tires on it,” Hardy said from her home in East Middlebury, where she was recuperating Tuesday evening.

The first-term senator said she was shaken by the experience but otherwise fine.

“My shoulders and neck and body are sore, and I have a headache,” Hardy told Seven Days. “But I took a nap and that helped.”

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Phil Scott, Vermont's GOP Governor, Says He Voted for Joe Biden

Posted By on Tue, Nov 3, 2020 at 4:10 PM

Gov. Phil Scott speaking to reporters after voting - PAUL HEINTZ ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Paul Heintz ©️ Seven Days
  • Gov. Phil Scott speaking to reporters after voting
Updated at 5:13 p.m.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he cast his presidential ballot for Democratic nominee Joe Biden. That makes him the only incumbent Republican governor in the country to publicly disclose his support for the former vice president.

“I put country over party,” Scott said.

The governor has made clear for months that he would not vote for Republican President Donald Trump, but he has been coy about whom he would support.

Gov. Scott submitting his ballot Tuesday - PAUL HEINTZ ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Paul Heintz ©️ Seven Days
  • Gov. Scott submitting his ballot Tuesday
“It’s been a bit of a struggle for me, but I ended up voting for Joe Biden,” he told reporters outside his local town office in Berlin, after depositing his ballot in an optical scanner. According to Scott, he had never before backed a Democrat for president. “So I had to do some soul-searching,” he said.

“President Trump has had four years to unite this country and has failed to do so,” Scott said. “We need someone who can pull us together. Our country needs to heal, and I’m very concerned about what another four years will do to our country. We’re so polarized here. We’re so divided, and it’s become so tribal. We need leaders. We need role models that will step up and pull us together as one country, and I’m afraid that President Trump misses the mark.”

Scott said he disagrees with many of Biden’s policy proposals but believes the vice president has what it takes to bridge the nation’s partisan divide. “I think he can heal the country,” the governor said. “I think he can bring us together.”

Scott also made clear that he expected Biden to remember voters like him if he makes it to the White House.

“It’s also my hope that he will realize that it wasn’t the right that got him elected, if he is elected,” the governor said. “It wasn’t the extreme left who got him elected. It’s the moderates, the centrists — and that’s where I am. Because if he’s elected, it’s because the moderates and the centrists came to his defense.”

Scott himself is up for reelection on Tuesday. He's facing Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a Progressive/Democrat.

“Oh, I should mention: I voted for Phil Scott for governor, as well,” Scott told the gaggle of reporters eagerly awaiting his presidential decision outside the town offices. “I know you were all waiting for me to announce that, as well.”

Though several other prominent incumbent Republicans have said they would not back Trump — Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker among them — none have endorsed Biden. Romney has kept his vote private. Hogan said he wrote in the late president Ronald Reagan. Baker said Tuesday, "I blanked it," according to WBUR.

In Vermont, Republican lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Scott Milne said he wrote in former governor Jim Douglas for president — as he and Scott said they did in 2016.

Scott said Tuesday that it might have been easier if he had written in a non-candidate’s name this time around, too. But, he said, “I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t enough for me to just not vote. I had to vote against [Trump].”

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Citing Civic Duty and Tradition, Vermonters Make Snowy Treks to the Polls

Posted By on Tue, Nov 3, 2020 at 1:28 PM

Raymond and Nancy McNamara waiting to vote in Milton - KENZIE IMHOFF
  • Kenzie Imhoff
  • Raymond and Nancy McNamara waiting to vote in Milton
This post will be updated.

Plenty of Vermonters waited to cast their ballots in person on Election Day and were hitting the polls Tuesday despite chilly weather, slate-gray skies and morning snowfall.

Roland Bluto, 74, stood in line at the Milton town offices wearing a baseball cap, a flannel shirt and a lined jean jacket early in the morning. 

“I’ve been voting in person since I was 18, so for me, it’s a tradition,” he said. And like many other voters turning out in person, Bluto said he also wanted to make certain that his vote was counted.

Milton residents Raymond and Nancy McNamara wore matching American flag masks with images of German Shepherds on them as they waited in Milton. Early balloting was not for them.

“We are horrified that Vermont decided to send everybody a mail-in ballot,” Nancy said.

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Monday, November 2, 2020

A Record 260,142 Vermonters Voted Early, Condos Says

Posted By on Mon, Nov 2, 2020 at 7:37 PM

Secretary of State Jim Condos - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Secretary of State Jim Condos
At least 260,142 Vermonters voted prior to Election Day, according to Secretary of State Jim Condos, setting a new state record for early voting.

"It's really good news that Vermonters are expressing their vote, expressing their voice," Condos said Monday afternoon.

The pre-election vote count is likely to grow as municipal clerks continue to update the Secretary of State's Office with local totals. Already, the number dwarfs the previous early voting record of 95,203, which was set during the 2016 presidential election.

This year's early vote count works out to 81.2 percent of all ballots cast during the 2016 election — and 51.6 percent of registered voters. According to the Secretary of State's Office, Vermont saw its highest turnout in 2008, when 326,822 people cast ballots.

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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Kavanaugh Corrects Error About Vermont Voting Rules in a Published Opinion

Posted By on Thu, Oct 29, 2020 at 2:10 PM

Justice Brett Kavanaugh - U.S. SUPREME COURT ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • U.S. Supreme Court ©️ Seven Days
  • Justice Brett Kavanaugh
Vermont election officials succeeded this week in getting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to correct an error about state election rules that he included in a high-profile opinion regarding mail-in ballots.

“Justice Kavanaugh simply got this wrong,” Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos said in a statement Thursday.

In an opinion concurring with the court’s decision not to extend Wisconsin’s deadline for receiving absentee ballots past Election Day, Kavanaugh noted that states have passed different election rules in response to the pandemic. He observed this variation “reflects our constitutional system of federalism. Different state legislatures may make different choices."

The problem was that he misstated Vermont's response to the pandemic, suggesting the Green Mountain State had made no changes to its election rules.

“Other States such as Vermont, by contrast, have decided not to make changes to their ordinary election rules, including to the election-day deadline for receipt of absentee ballots," Kavanaugh wrote Monday.

The ruling generated national media attention because it was widely viewed as a win for Republicans and efforts to limit how a key battleground state will count mail-in votes.

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Friday, October 23, 2020

Scott Says He Would Replace Sanders With Democrat-Affiliated Independent

Posted By on Fri, Oct 23, 2020 at 4:26 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders in Madison, Wis., in 2015 - FILE: ERIC TADSEN
  • File: Eric Tadsen
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders in Madison, Wis., in 2015
A report that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is seeking a position in a potential Joe Biden administration has raised questions about who would succeed Sanders in the Senate.

Citing unnamed sources close to Sanders, Politico reported Thursday that the Vermonter is interested in serving as Biden's labor secretary should Biden win the presidential election next month. Neither Sanders nor the Biden campaign corroborated the report, and a Sanders spokesperson declined to comment Friday when queried by Seven Days.

But the possibility of a vacancy in Vermont's congressional delegation, which hasn't occurred since 2006, has renewed focus on the role Republican Gov. Phil Scott might play in filling it. State law dictates that the governor schedule a special election within six months of a vacancy and that the winner complete the former occupant's term. Sanders' current term ends in January 2025. The governor is also empowered to select an interim senator to fill the post until a special election is held.

Asked in February what he would do if Sanders stepped down from the Senate, Scott told Seven Days that he would appoint an independent who had no plans to run for the seat. But he would not say whether he would expect that independent to caucus with Senate Democrats or Republicans, which could decide control of a closely divided chamber.

"I think I would be looking for somebody that fits all the qualifications and is independent by nature, and I don't know [that] I would have a litmus test of any other sort," Scott said at the time.

But at an unrelated press conference on Friday, the governor changed his tune.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Vermont House Candidate Proposes Segregated Police Forces

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2020 at 7:58 PM

Chris Viens (Right) and Mark Frier at a Waterbury Selectboard session last year - COURTESY OF GORDON MILLER
  • Courtesy of Gordon Miller
  • Chris Viens (Right) and Mark Frier at a Waterbury Selectboard session last year
A Waterbury politician running for state office says he doesn't want to defund the police: He wants to segregate them.

Chris Viens, chair of the Waterbury Selectboard and an independent candidate for the House of Representatives, said during a local radio interview that he thinks having minority officers respond to incidents involving other minorities might help defuse racial tensions in the state.

“As far as the defunding of the police, I’d rather see segregated police,” Viens told WDEV radio during a candidate forum on Monday. “When calls come out that are minority related, those police officers that are ... minority will address those issues.”

Viens, an excavation contractor, said that, were his plan enacted, “if there is a tragic shooting” of a person of color by another person of color, “the whole racist issue might be put to rest.”

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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Vermont Breaks Previous Absentee Ballot Voting Record

Posted By on Tue, Oct 13, 2020 at 5:32 PM

  • © Aurielaki | Dreamstime.com
More Vermonters have cast absentee ballots ahead of the November general election than any other in state history — and there are still three weeks of voting left.

According to the Secretary of State’s office, 95,885 residents have returned absentee ballots as of Tuesday afternoon, surpassing the previous general election record of 95,203, set in 2016.

And while the unprecedented showing was largely expected after Vermont sent an absentee ballot to every registered, active voter this fall to reduce traffic at the polls amid the coronavirus pandemic, voters appear to be returning those ballots at a notably high clip.

On Monday, Vermont became the first state whose early voting returns exceeded 25 percent of its total ballots cast in the last presidential election, according to a database from a University of Florida professor that reflects early voting returns from 38 states.

"Our hard work preparing for the 2020 General Election during the COVID-19 health crisis has paid off already, as Vermonters have overwhelmingly embraced safe and secure voting options to cast their ballots," Secretary of State Jim Condos said in a statement to Seven Days on Tuesday.

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