Politically thinking: Shumlin must expand his reach

Peter Shumlin, Doug Racine and Deb Markowitz issued a joint statement last weekend saying that, while the recount takes place, “we all agree that Peter should campaign as the prospective nominee” and “we’ve also agreed to campaign together.” Joint campaigning with Racine and Markowitz throughout the fall, not just during the recount period, could help Shumlin get elected governor.

Shumlin won the primary by amassing a huge majority in his home base of Windham County, and by winning Addison County. When Windham is removed and the votes cast in Vermont’s 13 other counties are aggregated, Shumlin finished third, behind both Racine and Markowitz.

Shumlin was not the only candidate to benefit from the support of a regional base. Matt Dunne won Windsor County, which he used to represent in the state Senate, and adjoining Orange County. Susan Bartlett, who finished a distant fifth statewide, finished first in her Senate constituency of Lamoille County. Racine’s and Markowitz’ vote was much more evenly distributed across the state than the other three candidates.

An interesting pattern in the primary vote is that Shumlin and Dunne did well in the same areas of the state, while Racine and Markowitz ran close to each other in other areas. Shumlin and Dunne together received 53 percent of the vote in Addison County, compared to 39 percent in Rutland County. Racine and Markowitz received 55 percent of the Rutland County vote, but only 43 percent in Addison County.

This pattern is even more apparent when the vote is analyzed by town rather than by county. Shumlin’s and Dunne’s combined share of the vote was over 60 percent in Middlebury, Weybridge, Cornwall and Ripton. Racine’s and Markowitz’ combined vote share was close to 60 percent in Bridport, Bristol, Orwell and Salisbury. Similar results are evident all over the state, with Shumlin and Dunne doing well in Dorset, Norwich and Woodstock, while Racine and Markowitz were strong in Barre, Rutland and St. Albans.

Generally, Shumlin and Dunne did better in towns with larger numbers of academics, physicians, attorneys and other professionals, as well as affluent retirees. Racine and Markowitz did better in towns with larger numbers of lower- and middle-income voters, and in towns where unionized workers have a significant presence.

If Shumlin is to defeat Brian Dubie in November, he must win the towns where Racine and Markowitz were strong in the Democratic primary. These are the towns where Jim Douglas won three re-election victories with majorities of the votes at the same time as John Kerry, Barack Obama, Patrick Leahy, Bernie Sanders and Peter Welch were winning majorities in those same towns.

An example of such a town is Bristol, where in Dubie’s most competitive race to date, his 2006 victory over Matt Dunne, Dubie received 51 percent of the vote in Bristol at the same time as Bernie Sanders received 70 percent of the Bristol vote. In 2008, Jim Douglas received 56 percent in Bristol, while Barack Obama had 67 percent in the town. In last week’s primary, Shumlin finished fourth in Bristol, behind Racine, Dunne and Markowitz, in that order.

If Racine and Markowitz appear along with Shumlin throughout the general election campaign, they could make the case for Shumlin to their primary supporters, and to similar voters in the towns where they did well in the primary. For Shumlin to win in November, voters in towns such as Bristol where Racine or Markowitz won the primary must transfer their allegiance to Shumlin rather split their tickets for Dubie.

Eric L. Davis is professor emeritus of political science at Middlebury College.

Login for Subscriber Access

Addison County Independent

58 Maple Street
Middlebury, VT 05753

Phone: 802.388.4944
Fax: 802.388.3100