Overview of Vermont’s key races, issues this Election Day

On Tuesday, voters will pick the state’s chief executive officer, a new lieutenant governor and the state attorney general.

It is arguably the most pivotal Election Day in Vermont in recent memory, since the 2000 election when the Take Back Vermont movement drove out many lawmakers who supported the state’s new civil unions law for gay couples. Here's an outline of what's at stake.


Incumbent Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., while widely predicted to win, has been in a bruising battle with Scott Milne, a Republican travel agency owner who narrowly lost to Gov. Peter Shumlin in 2014.

Candidate Profile: The seven-term Democrat and longest serving member in the Senate appears poised to easily win another six-year term over Republican challenger Scott Milne.
Read more

Candidate Profile: Scott Milne's message: Vote for me if you believe Patrick Leahy has been in office too long or if you want to send a message about a political system corrupted by corporate campaign contributions.
Read More


Read story: Governor’s race still ‘too close to call

Close. Competitive. Civil and constructive — at least by comparison.

That’s how the state’s senior political analyst described the 2016 race for Vermont governor, a contest that has pitted a popular Republican lieutenant governor against an energetic Democratic technocrat who held several posts in the Shumlin administration.

More than a year and $12 million later, voters head to the polls Tuesday to decide between Republican Phil Scott and Democrat Sue Minter to conclude the most expensive governor’s race by far in state history.

Candidate Profile: A Determined Figure In The Rink
To those who know Sue Minter, seeking the top job wasn’t a surprise: She doesn’t, they say, do things halfway, whether it’s broom hockey at Waterbury Winterfest, or getting her hands dirty after Tropical Storm Irene drowned her hometown. Read more

Candidate Profile: The Quintessential Mechanic
Before the start of the Vermont Dairy Festival parade, billed as the state’s longest, Phil Scott stood in the back of a pickup truck, carefully installing a brown flag honoring World War II veterans. Scott leaned in and said: “I like to do things myself. Then I know it’s done right. I have a particular way I like things to be done.” Read more

On the Issues:

  • Minter’s responses to 10 questions about her priorities are here.
  • Scott’s stances on the issues can be found here.

Lieutenant Governor

Read story: No. 2 race could be tighter than expected.

Republican Randy Brock, a former state senator, state auditor and candidate for governor, is running against David Zuckerman, a Progressive/Democrat senator from Chittenden County. The two men have diametrically opposed views on many issues. 

Brock is a fiscal conservative who believes in smaller government and opposes a hike in the minimum wage to $15 per hour. He also opposes marijuana legalization. Early on in the race, he distanced himself from Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president. Brock, who is African American, has criticized Zuckerman for “racist” comments. He points to Zuckerman’s comparison of legalizing marijuana to the fight for racial justice, among other things.

As a college student, Zuckerman worked for Sen. Bernie Sanders and is one of the beneficiaries of Sanders’ vast fundraising list. Zuckerman is an organic farmer who wants to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour. He led a failed initial effort in the Senate to legalize marijuana last year. He was also instrumental in the passage of Act 46, the school district consolidation law.

Candidate Profile: A 'Technocrat' Who Wants To Talk Integrity
The former member of the military police intends to make the race for lieutenant governor about character as well as policy. 
Read more

Candidate Profile: Economic Growth, Health Care, Climate Top Issues
If he’s elected lieutenant governor, he vows to open up the lawmaking process and ensure “that the broader public is brought into the system more than it is right now.”
Read More

Attorney General

Read an overview of the differences between the two candidates for Vermont Attorney General.

Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell announced earlier this year he would not be seeking re-election after 18 years in office. That opened up the top cop job for a bid by former 2012 Democratic primary rival, TJ Donovan.

Donovan, the Chittenden County State’s Attorney, wants to end the state’s use of out of state prisons, while his Republican opponent Deb Bucknam, an attorney from St. Johnsbury, says sending inmates to other states saves money. They have also clashed over campaign finance. Bucknam says the system works as is; Donovan would like to see the U.S. Supreme Court overturn the Citizens United decision, which has opened campaigns up to indirect spending by outside groups.

Candidate Profile: Two Sides, And She’s Clear Which She’s On
The Republican candidate for attorney general envisions acting as a government watchdog, while some fellow lawyers and a professional oversight board have criticized her own conduct. Read more

Candidate Profile: Looking To Spread A Progressive Vision Of Justice
His leadership as Chittenden County state’s attorney is often celebrated. As attorney general, he would have a bigger platform for his reformist approach, but also much broader responsibilities. Read More


The Legislature

Odds are, the Democratic majority will continue to dominate the Statehouse in Montpelier after Election Day. But seats could shift somewhat.

There are 150 seats in the Vermont House of Representatives. This year, 246 people are running for House seats (57 percent are Democrats, 35 percent Republicans, 4 percent Progressive and 4 percent independents). Of that total number, 127 are incumbents.

There are 30 seats in the Vermont Senate and 55 candidates are making a bid for those seats. Forty-nine percent of the candidates are Democrats, 35 percent are Republicans, 6 percent are Progressives and 6 percent are independents.

Find information about House and Senate candidates here.

Ballot Initiatives

In two regions of the state, decisions about large scale developments will have ramifications for decades to come.

Read the Stiles Brook windfarm stories here.
In Windham County, a proposed 24-turbine wind farm has divided the communities of Grafton and Windham. The developer, Iberdrola, has offered voters in Windham annual payouts of $1,162, in Grafton, each resident would receive $428 a year. Questions have been raised about whether the offer, which was originally offered only to registered voters, is tantamount to buying votes.

Read the Burlington Town Center Mall stories here. Burlington voters will decide whether to support a controversial 14-story, $220 million redevelopment of the Town Center Mall, located on Church Street. The project is being pushed by Mayor Miro Weinberger and the Burlington City Council as a way to bring more jobs and affordable housing downtown. Opponents say the project is out of scale and the housing will be too expensive for residents. Both sides have formed political action committees to influence voters. Watch this short explainer video of Burlington ballot issues here.

Voter How-To: 10 Things To Know

Here’s the rundown on where to go and what to do on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8. 

  1. Registration status: You can sign in to “My Voter Guide” to see whether and where you are registered to vote. (If you didn’t submit an application by Nov. 2, you can’t vote.)
  2. If you go to the polls and your name isn’t on the voter checklist you can still vote if you registered by Nov. 2. Just sign a sworn statement affirming that you registered.
  3. Polling locations: Check out Google’s search tool. It allows you to plug in your address and get the location and hours of your polling place.
  4. No identification is required at the polls.
  5. If you make a mistake, you can request a new ballot.
  6. For your ballot to count, there is no need to vote in every candidate race or every ballot item. You can leave boxes unmarked or write in candidates.
  7. Don’t wear buttons, stickers or t-shirts promoting a candidate or ballot issue at the polls.
  8. No politicking inside the polling place.
  9. The Vermont Secretary of State’s Office offers a vote by phone option for visually impaired voters.
  10. The polls open between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8, depending on where you live. All polling places close at 7 p.m. Results will begin trickling in after 8 p.m.

Source: Vermont Secretary of State’s office.

Live Election Night Coverage

Need to know what's happening on election night? Visit VTDigger.org for live video election coverage courtesy of CCTV.  We will also be posting up to the minute election results throughout the evening and into the next day.


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