Depending on who you ask, the Vermont gubernatorial campaign was either decided in November or is still up for grabs. Because no one received 50 percent of the vote, the state Constitution requires the Legislature to choose the winner when it convenes in January. A new ad campaign is starting today that hopes to convince legislators to elect Republican Scott Milne over incumbent Peter Shumlin, even though Shumlin got more of the popular vote.
There were eight candidates in the race; most received less than 5 percent of the vote. The leaders, Democratic incumbent Peter Shumlin and Republican Scott Milne, received 46.53 percent and 45.27 percent, respectively, failing to break the constitutionally mandated 50 percent mark. The legislature will therefore choose the governor in a secret ballot on January 8th.
A new group called Vermonters for Honest Government has begun running television ads urging voters to contact their legislators about their choice. “If you’ve had enough of Peter Shumlin’s political shenanigans, let your representatives know that it is time for a change. Contact them and urge them to vote for Scott Milne for governor on January 8th
Vermonters for Honest Government was formed by Newport Center resident William Round. The former Navy Captain and Boeing engineer says there is a grassroots up welling of concern about the direction the state is headed. “Milne won nine out of the fourteen counties, so geographically he has a greater area and we think that Milne is a better candidate.”
Round believes that given more time and greater voter turnout, Milne would have been a clear winner. “After getting feedback about how angry some of the people are in the direction that the state is going and the fact that he did so well and came that close to a sitting incumbent governor, we have a constitutionally mandated opportunity and we’re going to jump at that and see if we can’t change the direction of the state of Vermont. There’s no huge organized lobbying effort other than the encouragement for Vermont citizens to contact their individual legislators.”
Round says he has not contacted Milne and only briefly met the candidate at a fundraiser. Milne has never conceded in a race that shocked observers. He says he was unaware of the group but calls its plans a great surprise. “It’s very good timing. I think I’ve got a steep climb between now and January 8th to come out on top. But very clearly it’s going in my direction and I think it’s going in my direction with some pretty good momentum. I think this discussion’s been healthy for Vermont. I think it’s fun to see how this plays out. I’m looking forward to being governor if I’m fortunate enough to get the confidence of 91 legislators.”
Seven Days is Vermont’s weekly independent newspaper. Staff writer Terri Hallenbeck was among the first to write about Vermonters for Honest Government’s ad and efforts. “I think it will remind voters that there is this option. But I also think it’s a tough sell. It’s obviously a hugely democratic legislature. And there is this sense that the person who gets the most votes wins. Peter Shumlin had the most votes. One of the interesting things about this is the election really has ended. Bill Round registered as a lobbyist rather than as a political action committee. It’s a whole different set of rules. It’s new territory because this hasn’t happened before, at least not any time in recent times.”
Milne said he planned to contact Round and Vermonters for Honest Government sometime on Tuesday.
The 2015-2016 Vermont legislative session begins on January 7, 2015 and the legislature’s election of the governor is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on January 8th