Top stories of 2014: #7 — New faces, angry voters mark Election 2014
The General Election of 2014 saw one local veteran lawmaker go down to defeat, and Addison County voters also added to some tense moments for incumbent Gov. Peter Shumlin as the ballots were counted on Nov. 4.
Bristol Republican Fred Baser had failed in 2010 to break through in his bid for one of the two seats representing Addison-4, the House district that includes the towns of Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton and Starksboro. But he made up for it in a big way this past November, finishing as the top vote-getter in a four-way race for the pair of seats.
Baser finished with 1,872 tallies, followed by incumbent Rep. Dave Sharpe, D-Bristol, with 1,765 votes. Finishing out of the running were seven-term incumbent Mike Fisher, a Lincoln Democrat, and challenger Valerie Mullin, a Monkton Republican, with 1,738 and 1,514 votes, respectively. Fisher was the chairman of the House Health Care Committee, which had been in the spotlight during the lengthy statewide debate about Vermont’s transition to a single-payer health care system. The rollout of the state health care exchange a year earlier had been very rough, and state officials took the exchange offline for part of the fall to repair lingering bugs.
Baser’s win represented one of 10 additional seats that the GOP picked up in the Vermont House on Nov. 4. Addison County’s House delegation gained two other new faces as a result of the election — East Middlebury Democrat Amy Sheldon won an Addison-1 seat that was being voluntarily vacated by incumbent Democratic Rep. Paul Ralston, and Orwell independent Alyson Eastman won the Addison-Rutland seat that was being vacated by incumbent Will Stevens, a Shoreham independent.
All other local incumbents were re-elected, including both Democrat state Sens. Claire Ayer and Christopher Bray, who ran unopposed for the two seats representing Addison County, Huntington and Buel’s Gore.
County voters showed some dissatisfaction about the status quo in Montpelier. The county endorsed Shumlin over Republican challenger Scott Milne by a narrow 6,020 to 5,731, though Milne won majority support in 14 of the county’s 23 communities. Political pundits theorized that many voters had bailed on Shumlin for his administration’s lack of financial details on the proposed single-payer health care system, and a lack of action on property tax relief. The governor also lost support in Addison County among opponents of the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project. Shumlin was a big supporter of the project and its potential to deliver natural gas via a new pipeline through Addison County.
When all the statewide votes had been counted, Shumlin held an edge of about 2,400 votes over Milne. But Milne confirmed days later that he would not concede and instead followed the route spelled out in the Vermont Constitution, which dictates that the Legislature decide the final outcome of the contest because neither candidate had garnered at least 50 percent of the statewide vote. Lawmakers are scheduled to take the vote this Thursday.
Addison County voters also voted 7,794 to 4,921 in favor of incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott over Progressive challenger Dean Corren. And they re-elected Republican county Sheriff Don Keeler and, in the closest county-wide race of the day, picked Republican Charles Clark Jr. over Democrat Ryan Mason, 5,783 to 5,638, in the race for high bailiff.
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