Locals go big for Obama, Douglas in heavy election turnout
By ANDY KIRKALDY
ADDISON COUNTY — Yes, Addison County and Brandon did.
Most local voters joined their peers statewide in backing President-elect Barack Obama as Vermont became the first state that national news networks placed in the Democrat’s column on Tuesday night, just minutes after polls in the state closed at 7 p.m.
In heavy turnout that averaged 78 percent and topped 80 percent in at least a dozen local communities, Addison County and Brandon residents also backed statewide winners, including three candidates for major offices who faced opposition: Republican Gov. Jim Douglas of Middlebury, Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie and Democratic Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, who garnered the most votes in these parts in all contested races (see chart).
In every case, local voters’ support for the statewide and national winners, all of whom prevailed by comfortable margins, exceeded their margins statewide.
As of mid-morning on Wednesday, Obama, a first-term U.S. Senator from Illinois, had claimed 67 percent of the Vermont vote with 87 percent of the overall ballots reported counted.
Assuming that percentage holds, that will be the second-largest margin of victory Obama enjoyed in any state in the nation, trailing only his birth state of Hawaii, where he polled 72 percent. Rhode Island came in third at 63 percent. The heavily African-American District of Columbia backed Obama by an even greater 93 percent.
With 100 percent of the local vote counted, Obama swept to victory in all 24 towns and captured roughly 70 percent of the ballots cast. In four towns, more than 80 percent of voters favored Obama over Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican nominee.
Ripton led the way with 83 percent of voters supporting Obama, and voters in Goshen, Lincoln and Middlebury all backed the winning Democratic ticket at a rate of roughly 81 percent.
The closest area balloting in the presidential race came in Addison, where Obama edged McCain, 378-374. Obama failed to draw 60 percent support in only two other local towns: Orwell (58 percent) and Panton (57 percent).
The depth of Obama’s support locally was also illustrated in Vergennes, where Obama drew 834 votes, more than the 808 cast in favor of a bond to buy equipment for the city’s highly regarded fire department.
Gov. Douglas likewise had little trouble, easily winning election against a pair of challengers, Democrat Gaye Symington and Anthony Pollina, a Progressive who ran as an independent. Symington and Pollina were locked in a duel for second place on Wednesday morning.
Locally, Douglas won 23 of 24 towns, with Pollina’s victory in the three-way race in Granville the only exception. Douglas polled 56.5 percent of the local votes, ahead of the statewide rate of 54.4 percent on Wednesday morning with 87 percent of the votes counted.
Unlike two years ago, Douglas won his hometown of Middlebury, although he failed to win a plurality. The combined total of Symington (860) and Pollina (861) was 1,721, more than Douglas’ 1,656.
But in every other town except Goshen, Lincoln, Ripton and Weybridge, Douglas earned more votes than his two opponents combined.
Meanwhile, local voters gave Pollina a clear edge over Symington, who was clinging to a slim, 21.4-21.3 percent statewide lead with 87 percent of the votes counted on Wednesday morning.
Locally, Pollina outpolled Symington, 4,869-4,106, which translated in percentage terms to 23.5-20 percent. Symington only earned more votes than the Progressive candidate in four towns, Waltham, Cornwall, Leicester and Addison.
Like Douglas, his longtime lieutenant governor easily turned back a challenge, as Republican Dubie defeated Democrat Tom Costello. With 87 percent of the vote counted on Wednesday, Dubie’s statewide margin was 56.1-38.6 percent.
Again, locally the size of the victory for the winning candidate was even greater: 59.1-40.1 percent, with the vote count running 11,619-8,036. Dubie won 20 of 24 towns, including the Democratic stronghold of Middlebury by 1,628-1,517. Costello prevailed only in Goshen, Lincoln, Ripton and Weybridge.
Incumbent Democrat Deb Markowitz cruised to an even more one-sided victory over Republican challenger Eugene Bifano, both statewide and locally. With 87 percent of the Vermont vote in, Markowitz had a 70.5-24 percent lead on Wednesday morning.
Locally, Markowitz pulled in a high vote total of 14,707, earning a roughly 77-23 percent edge over her GOP foe. Markowitz won every town, and in no community was balloting close.
Turnout, as expected with the historic nature of the presidential election, proved to be heavy. With data unavailable from three towns that faxed election results in on Tuesday nights and whose clerks could not be reached early on Wednesday (Hancock, Leicester and Goshen), turnout stood at 78 percent.
Whiting town clerk Grace Simonds reported that the 84 percent figure in her town was the highest in 28 years, and Brandon Town Clerk Bill Dick said the number of voters in his town — 2,402 — set a record, although the percentage has been higher in the past. Dick said there have been many new registrations in recent months.
The highest percentage turnout, 85 percent, came in Weybridge, with Whiting in second and Monkton (83 percent) and Panton, Bridport, Granville and Lincoln (all at 82 percent) right behind.
Among the larger villages, Bristol’s 81 percent stood out. Ripton, Cornwall, Addison, New Haven and Orwell also crested 80 percent.