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Vermonters Will Choose Governor Tuesday

Vermont Statehouse 2018
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Vermont Statehouse 2018

Vermonters go to the polls tomorrow to pick a governor for the next two years.
In early April Republican Governor Phil Scott signed three gun bills into law on the steps of the Statehouse as a crowd of Vermonters surrounded him.  Some jeered while others cheered. Williamstown resident Lanny Covey was livid.  “He took a oath to uphold our Constitution. And he has no right to sign that bill and they had no right to pass it this far. It’s against the Constitution and it’s wrong. It’s treasonous.”

There was speculation that the one-term incumbent would be vulnerable in his re-election bid.  Five Democrats ran in the primary: environmentalist James Ehlers, activist and southern Vermont Dance Festival founder Brenda Siegel, teenager Ethan Sonneborn, state Senator John Rodgers and former utility CEO Christine Hallquist.  Scott also faced a primary from Springfield businessman Keith Stern. Hallquist won the Democratic primary and Scott won the Republican race.
Hallquist received national attention as the first transgender person to win a major party nomination for governor.  Hallquist has chosen to focus instead on state issues and her experience as a utility executive to boost the economy.  “Our current governor he’s talking about no new taxes. Of course nobody wants new taxes. Neither do I. But a good leader has a long term plan how we’re going to grow our economy.”

Scott has touted his ability to increase revenues without new taxes or fees in order to make the state more affordable. “After two years of not raising taxes and fees, making the investments in the areas that give us the highest return, we had more on the bottom line. We had a surplus for the first time in a decade. We brought more revenue in. Our revenues are growing.”

There have been numerous debates between Scott and Hallquist, which drew the ire of the third party and independent candidates.  With five others on the ballot, Independent Charles Laramie is a veteran frustrated that he and other non-major party candidates were excluded from most debates. “I’m a candidate. I did exactly what those two candidates on the stage did. I filled out the same paperwork. I got the same signatures.  I had to talk to the same amount of Vermonters to get those. And now I’m not allowed in the debates. That’s just wrong.”

An October VPR/VT PBS pollfound 42 percent of registered Vermonters would vote for Scott, 28 percent for Hallquist and 22 percent were not sure.
Middlebury College Professor Emeritus of Political Science Eric Davis thinks the poll was reliable at the time it was taken, in the first half of October.  “In terms of the gun issue I would say the Governor has lost some support among  conservative Republicans and very strong Second Amendment advocates. Not just because he signed the gun bill but for some other things he’s done: speaking out against Trump, both the style of Trump politics as well as some specific issues. So the Governor may have lost some support on the right wing of the Republican party.  I think his signature on the gun bills probably is helping him in terms of getting support from  moderates and centrists.”

As for Hallquist, Davis says she’s done a reasonably good job considering it’s her first election.  “But because she’s never run for office before she had a hard time at the beginning of the campaign giving focused answers. She’s also had difficulty raising money. Some of the people who would normally give money to a Democratic gubernatorial candidate I think those are going to U.S. House and U.S. Senate candidates in other states.”

All of Vermont’s statewide offices, legislative seats and its U.S. House and one U.S. Senate seat are on the ballot Tuesday. Polls in VT open between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. and all must close at 7 p.m.

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