Tuesday is Primary Day in Vermont and Connecticut. In Vermont, there are several high-profile races including the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial primary. The incumbent GOP governor faces a challenger and five Democrats hope to advance to the general election.
In 2010 Vermont moved the state primary from September to mid-August. Since that time turnout has been quite low. According to Middlebury College Professor Emeritus of Political Science Eric Davis, the only time it has exceeded 20 percent was when there was an open race two years ago. “This year with Governor Scott running for re-election the turn-out’s likely to be quite low perhaps as low as 15 percent of the registered voters maybe even a little bit lower than that. So we could be looking at a situation where only you know 40 to 50 thousand people vote in the Democratic primary and maybe 20 to 30 thousand in the Republican primary. So these candidates for the most part have not been able to raise very much money. They don’t have large field organizations and all those sorts of things. So it’s really the base voters, the most committed most informed voters, who’ll be going to the polls tomorrow.”
That has not deterred a number of candidates from running. There are five Democrats on the gubernatorial primary ballot, four with no legislative experience. James Ehlers announced his candidacy in July 2017 and told WAMC that he wanted to return the people’s voice to the governor’s office. “It’s the executive branch that is empowered already to address many of the things I’ve been working on for the last 25 years: inequality in our economy, our lack of environmental enforcement, all of these issues are issues that a governor could address right now. But when we have candidates beholden to corporations and polluters well we wind up with the state of the situation we have now.”
Democratic activist and Executive Director of the Vermont Dance Festival Brenda Siegel echoed the need to have everyday people reflected in government. “I am planning to look at the economy from a bottom up approach using of course things like the minimum wage and the paid family medical leave but also things that help build up our economy and help lift up people at the bottom so that they are able to become active taxpaying citizens in our state.”
Christine Hallquist left her position as leader of Vermont’s second-largest utility to run and would be the nation’s first transgender governor. Hallquist says Vermont needs a strong leader who will focus on rural development. “We’ve got lots of negative headwinds coming out of Washington. You know Governor Scott he’s a nice person, but we need more than a nice person now.”
Vermont has no age restriction to run and 14-year-old Ethan Sonneborn has mounted a serious campaign for the Democratic nod. During a forum on Channel 17 Town Meeting Televison he said government must put people first. “Until we start to move towards a state that truly works for everybody and an economy that works for everybody then we can’t recognize the Vermont dream.”
State Senator John Rodgers was convinced to mount a write-in campaign in the Democratic primary. He is the only Democrat with legislative experience. “Knowing who the players are in the building, so I’ve been there for 14 years, 6 of them in the Senate, knowing people in state government, knowing who the lobbyists in the building are and knowing who the legislators are that get things done and having working and personal relationships with them I think is huge.”
On the Republican side, Keith Stern, a businessman with no legislative experience, is challenging incumbent Phil Scott because he is upset about the state of Vermont’s economy. “The taxes are too high, just the overall cost of living is too high, the lack of good paying jobs and the restrictions and just the way that our elected officials operate in this state is excessive”
During a Channel 17 and VT Digger forum, Governor Scott said the state’s economy can grow without raising taxes. “If you invest more in the economy, if you try and bring more people in, keep more people here you can prosper. It isn’t all about raising taxes and fees.”
Polls open Tuesday in Vermont between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. and close statewide at 7:00 p.m.