Shumlin narrowly outpolls Milne in Addison County

ADDISON COUNTY — Incumbent Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin scored a narrow overall victory over Republican challenger Scott Milne when the votes were counted in Addison County Tuesday evening, though a majority of the electorate in 14 of the county’s 23 communities declared a preference for Milne.
Shumlin, the two-term incumbent, received a combined 6,020 votes in Addison County during the General Election, compared to 5,761 for Milne. Libertarian Dan Feliciano garnered 583 tallies.
As the Addison Independent went to press on Wednesday, the race for governor was still too close to call. With 99 percent of the vote in, Shumlin held a paper-thin advantage of 46 percent support compared to 45 percent for Milne, who was making his first run after kicking off his candidacy in late July and being outspent by the governor more than four to one.
Since neither candidate will secure 50 percent of the vote, it will be up to the Vermont General Assembly to formally decide the outcome after the top vote-getter has been confirmed by the Secretary of State’s office.
“We’ve taken a close look at the numbers,” Shumlin said in a statement released late Wednesday morning. “While I will await final counts and further statements from Scott Milne, it is clear we are ahead and I’m confident that I’ve received the most votes. Serving as governor has been the greatest privilege of my life and I will be proud to continue leading this great state. I understand how close this election was and I want Vermonters to know that I will be working hard for each and every one of them.”
Meanwhile, Milne issued a statement of his own.
“What is clear is that a majority of Vermonters do not agree with the path we are on. We are going to wait for the final numbers. I am incredibly grateful to all the Vermonters who cast ballots on my behalf yesterday. I owe it to my supporters and all Vermonters to see the totals before we make any further statements.”
Eric Davis is a retired Middlebury College political scientist and a political columnist for the Addison Independent. He was a keen observer of the 2014 election and offered some insights on voting patterns.
Based on a 47-percent turnout of voters and Shumlin’s potential yield of 47-percent support, Davis projected that only 22 percent of the state’s total potential voters cast ballots for the incumbent governor in this election.
“That would be the lowest support for an incumbent governor since at least the early 1960s,” Davis said.
He pointed to pre-election polling suggesting a lack of trust in Shumlin and reservations about his job performance. Shumlin has drawn particular criticism for his administration’s actions on health care reform and the failed launch of the Vermont Health Connect website, his administration’s failure to provide timely details on a funding scheme for a single-payer health care system, and a lack of results in softening the blow of municipal and education property taxes. There is also a widespread perception among Vermonters that the state economy is not as good as it should be, and Shumlin is taking some heat for that, according to Davis.
And in Addison County, Shumlin has made some enemies during the past two years for his unabashed support of the Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project, an unpopular endeavor among residents in several local communities. Davis noted that in 2012, Shumlin got 59-percent support in Monkton and 64-percent support in Cornwall — two communities that are poised to host segments of the pipeline. Shumlin’s support dwindled to 42 percent and 49 percent, respectively, in Monkton and Cornwall in this year’s election.
“There is the larger issue of energy siting,” Davis said. “There is a sense the administration is too close to the utility companies and that there needs to be more balance in the (review) process.”
He noted that in Lowell, the site of a major wind energy project, Shumlin’s support eroded from 45 percent in 2012 to 26 percent this year.
Democratic lawmakers, who hold substantial numerical majorities in both the House and Senate, also took some hits in this election, as has been the case in other states throughout the country. As the Independent went to press, it appeared as though the GOP had gained 10 seats in the House and two in the Senate. One of those casualties was veteran Rep. Mike Fisher, D-Lincoln. Fisher, chairman of the House Health Care Committee, finished out of the running in Addison-4 (see related story, Page 1A). Bristol Republican Fred Baser won a seat in that district.
Davis noted Milne garnered a lot of support in small cities and rural towns, while Shumlin held onto his base in bigger cities like Burlington and South Burlington, and in southern Vermont. He also did not see his support erode in affluent communities like Charlotte, Shelburne and Woodstock, according to Davis.
In other county-wide results:
•  Incumbent Lt. Gov. Phil Scott easily topped Progressive/Democratic challenger Dean Corren, 7,794 to 4,921. Corren was the top vote-getter in only two county towns — Middlebury and Ripton.
•  Incumbent U.S. House Rep. Peter Welch breezed to victory in Addison County over his Republican challenger Mark Donka, 8,469 to 3,819.
•  Incumbent Addison County Sheriff Don Keeler easily won election with 9,356 votes. Keeler had taken over two years ago for Jim Coons, who died in office. Write-in rival Ron Holmes recorded 538 tallies against Keeler.
•  In the closest county-wide race of the day, Republican Charles Clark Jr. bested Democrat Ryan Mason, 5,783 to 5,638, in the battle for high bailiff.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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