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Vermonters To Cast Primary Votes For Governor, Senate, House

Vermont State House
WAMC/Pat Bradley

Vermonters are voting Tuesday in the primary election that will choose the November candidates for governor, the U.S. Senate and the House.

Incumbent Republican Governor Phil Scott is facing a challenge Tuesday from Springfield businessman Keith Stern.

Four Democrats are on the ballot for the party's gubernatorial nomination, including Christine Hallquist a former utility executive who, if elected would become the nation's first trans-gender governor, and 14-year-old Ethan Sonneborn who is taking advantage of a quirk in state law that does not require gubernatorial candidates to be registered voters. Environmental activist James Ehlers; dance festival organizer Brenda Siegel and Democratic state Senator John Rodgers, from Vermont's remote and conservative Northeast Kingdom, is running a grassroots write-in campaign, largely motivated by his displeasure with firearms restrictions.

Scott, who was first elected in 2016, is facing a rebellion from his base due to his support for a series of gun restrictions that are mild by national standards. The restrictions, which Scott signed into law in April, came after the arrest of a Vermont teenager on charges he was plotting a school shooting.

It's unclear how that will play out at the polls because in Vermont's open primary some are encouraging Democratic supporters of Scott's gun stance to take GOP primary ballots and vote for Scott.

Hallquist says that within Vermont she is running for governor based on her managerial ability. She's promising a progressive campaign that will focus on economic development for rural Vermont.

She has also won the endorsement of The Victory Fund, a political action committee that backs LGBTQ candidates, which has labeled her a "game changer."

Ehlers, executive director of the Colchester-based water charity Lake Champlain International, has served as an adviser for Sanders and is casting his campaign as a similar liberal populist movement. He wants to challenge what he sees as Scott's reliance on trickle-down economics.

Siegel said her experience as a low-income single mother gives her a unique perspective lacking in Vermont politics. She said her candidacy would give "a seat at the table" for those who have felt overlooked by the political establishment.

A quirk in the Vermont statute does not set a minimum age for the office of governor, and Sonneborn's candidacy was determined to be valid after he met all other requirements.

While many view his candidacy as a joke, Sonneborn has a full, fleshed-out platform echoing many of the liberal viewpoints of the state's Democratic Party.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who is already on the November ballot as an independent, is also running in the Democratic primary where he is facing a challenge from little-known candidate Folasade Adeluola.

Sanders cannot appear on the November ballot as both a Democrat and Independent. In the past after winning the Democratic primary, Sanders has declined the nomination, but accepted the formal endorsement of the state's Democratic Party.

"That is what he has done in the past, and that is what he looks forward to happening in 2018," said campaign spokeswoman Arianna Jones. "As he has for many campaigns, Bernie will contribute to and participate in the Vermont Democratic coordinated campaign."

Vermont's lone representative to the U.S. House, popular Democratic Representative Peter Welch is facing two primary challengers and there are two little-known candidates vying for the GOP nomination to oppose him in November.

© 2018 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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