Editorial: Your vote matters
If you think your vote won’t matter in Tuesday’s Primary races, you’re wrong.
Expectations for the Tuesday’s voter turnout may near record lows — perhaps in the high single digits or low teens — as a percentage of the voting population. In the Republican gubernatorial election, for example, that could mean roughly 20,000 people will cast a vote for either Gov. Phil Scott or his Republican challenger Keith Stern. Among the four Democrats running for governor, it’s conceivable that the winning candidate could grab fewer than 30 percent of the vote total to win the nomination. And when you consider that’s 30 percent of a 10 percent turnout, you’re talking about a very small number of people deciding the election outcome.
In short, the lower the turnout, the more important each vote becomes.
What is also true is that among many of the state’s top offices, the incumbents either have a huge advantage or in some cases no contest at all.
But does that mean the system is broken? While democracy thrives on competitive elections, when the public is satisfied with a candidate — and when there are no compelling reasons to boot them out — is it bad primaries pose little opposition?
That said, there are other reasons to run for office, despite the long odds. One is to gain name recognition to lay the foundation for the next election.
In his run against Rep. Peter Welch for Vermont’s lone congressional seat, Democrat Dr. Dan Freilich has at least been out in force throughout the state, contacting local media and getting stories written about his campaign and his viewpoints. While the likelihood of him upsetting Rep. Welch is nil, he nonetheless presented himself well, is an articulate advocate of Democratic — and pragmatic — causes and policies, and will have gained significant name recognition and credibility for another time.
In the primary race against Sen. Bernie Sanders, however, Democrat Folasade Adeluola said she had moved to Vermont from Indiana last year with the goal of campaigning against Sanders. According to news reports, she supported Hillary Clinton over Sanders for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination and was upset Sanders had divided the Democratic Party. Sorry, but that’s sandbagging an election and it’s a poor reason to launch a campaign. Her lack of support is understandable.
The surprise of these primaries is Bristol 14-year-old Ethan Sonneborn, who may have hit the jackpot in terms of name recognition with stories in several of the nation’s most prestigious newspapers, including the Washington Post,numerous television spots and mega social media exposure. That’s partly because media coverage of elections rewards fresh ideas and fresh faces, but in Sonnebor’s case, it was also because the 14-year-old was an articulate spokesperson for his peers.
Interestingly, Sonneborn’s novelty as a 14-year-old candidate, might have undercut the unique race being run by Christine Hallquist,who would be the nation’s first transgender governor if she were elected, as well as Brenda Siegel’sbid as a single mother focusing on tackling the opioid crisis. Hallquist, in particular, has a strong résumé as a hands-on executive and articulate communicator — two things Vermont sorely needs at the top.
Among the Democrats running for governor, that leaves James Ehlers— a white male nearing 50 with a strong environmental background as executive director of Lake Champlain International, who also has progressive views on labor and a colorful background as a hunting guide, fishing guide, entrepreneur, U.S. Navy Veteran, water conservationists and more — as one of the most conventional candidates in the field. And no one who knows Ehlers would ever think of him as conventional. Ehlers has been a provocateur, an advocate and an activist in almost every aspect of his life.
So while none of these gubernatorial candidates have reached the critical name recognition in this primary to be considered a strong threat for the governorship, it’s early and the primary process serves the very purpose of introducing candidates to public well ahead of the General Election in November. The important step now is to vote Tuesday, then engage in the discussion between now and the General Election on Nov. 6. Your vote counts more than you might think.
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