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Briglin, Masland Win Democratic Primary for Two Vt. House Seats

Candidates Will Face Independent in November General Election

  • Jim Masland of Thetford, left, pours a glass of water for Steve Lajoie while campaigning to retain his seat in the legislature in front of Tracy Hall in Norwich, Vt. with fellow candidates Tim Briglin of Thetford, right, and Irv Thomae of Norwich, second from right, and Briglin supporter Arline Rotman of Norwich, middle, Tuesday, August 26, 2014. Thomae brought the jar of ice water to share as the shade diminished on the Tracy Hall lawn.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Jim Masland of Thetford, left, pours a glass of water for Steve Lajoie while campaigning to retain his seat in the legislature in front of Tracy Hall in Norwich, Vt. with fellow candidates Tim Briglin of Thetford, right, and Irv Thomae of Norwich, second from right, and Briglin supporter Arline Rotman of Norwich, middle, Tuesday, August 26, 2014. Thomae brought the jar of ice water to share as the shade diminished on the Tracy Hall lawn.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

  • Mary Riordan of Norwich arrives at Tracy Hall in Norwich, Vt. to cast her ballot with her children Guinivere, 7, and Rowan, 3, Tuesday, August 26, 2014. Candidates Jill Michaels of Strafford, second from right, and Irv Thomae of Norwich, right, as well as Tim Briglin of Thetford and Jim Masland of Thetford, are vying for two seats in the Vermont House of Representatives from Windsor - Orange District 2.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Mary Riordan of Norwich arrives at Tracy Hall in Norwich, Vt. to cast her ballot with her children Guinivere, 7, and Rowan, 3, Tuesday, August 26, 2014. Candidates Jill Michaels of Strafford, second from right, and Irv Thomae of Norwich, right, as well as Tim Briglin of Thetford and Jim Masland of Thetford, are vying for two seats in the Vermont House of Representatives from Windsor - Orange District 2.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

  • Jill Michaels of Strafford, candidate for Vermont House of Representatives for Windsor - Orange District 2, pins her button on supporter Sheila Paget, 92, of Norwich while campaigning outside Tracy Hall in Norwich, Vt. Tuesday, August 26, 2014. Michaels is one of four Democrats competing for two open seats in the district. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Jill Michaels of Strafford, candidate for Vermont House of Representatives for Windsor - Orange District 2, pins her button on supporter Sheila Paget, 92, of Norwich while campaigning outside Tracy Hall in Norwich, Vt. Tuesday, August 26, 2014. Michaels is one of four Democrats competing for two open seats in the district.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

  • Candidate Jim Masland of Thetford sports a button promoting his re-election to the Vermont House of Representatives while campaigning outside Tracy Hall in Norwich, Vt. Tuesday, August 26, 2014. Masland has served eight terms in the House. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Candidate Jim Masland of Thetford sports a button promoting his re-election to the Vermont House of Representatives while campaigning outside Tracy Hall in Norwich, Vt. Tuesday, August 26, 2014. Masland has served eight terms in the House.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

  • Jim Masland of Thetford, left, pours a glass of water for Steve Lajoie while campaigning to retain his seat in the legislature in front of Tracy Hall in Norwich, Vt. with fellow candidates Tim Briglin of Thetford, right, and Irv Thomae of Norwich, second from right, and Briglin supporter Arline Rotman of Norwich, middle, Tuesday, August 26, 2014. Thomae brought the jar of ice water to share as the shade diminished on the Tracy Hall lawn.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Mary Riordan of Norwich arrives at Tracy Hall in Norwich, Vt. to cast her ballot with her children Guinivere, 7, and Rowan, 3, Tuesday, August 26, 2014. Candidates Jill Michaels of Strafford, second from right, and Irv Thomae of Norwich, right, as well as Tim Briglin of Thetford and Jim Masland of Thetford, are vying for two seats in the Vermont House of Representatives from Windsor - Orange District 2.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Jill Michaels of Strafford, candidate for Vermont House of Representatives for Windsor - Orange District 2, pins her button on supporter Sheila Paget, 92, of Norwich while campaigning outside Tracy Hall in Norwich, Vt. Tuesday, August 26, 2014. Michaels is one of four Democrats competing for two open seats in the district. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Candidate Jim Masland of Thetford sports a button promoting his re-election to the Vermont House of Representatives while campaigning outside Tracy Hall in Norwich, Vt. Tuesday, August 26, 2014. Masland has served eight terms in the House. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Norwich — Incumbent state Rep. Jim Masland, D-Thetford, and newcomer Tim Briglin, D-Thetford, appeared last night to be headed to victory in the four-way Democratic primary for the two Vermont House seats representing Norwich, Sharon, Strafford and Thetford.

With three of four towns reporting unofficial results, Briglin was in first with 1019 votes to Masland’s 942. Candidates Irv Thomae, of Norwich, and Jill Michaels, of Strafford, had 559 and 329 votes, respectively.

“I’m not surprised that Tim ran ahead of me,” Masland said, and went on to applaud the first-time candidate’s especially active campaign efforts. “Oh my God, he had people everywhere.”

As of late Tuesday night, Strafford had not reported results, but Masland said he was the runner-up there, with 152 votes, and that Briglin had carried the town narrowly with 157.

The primary will decide who advances to the general election to face off against independent John Freitag, of Strafford, for the two seats. The other incumbent representative, Kathy Hoyt, D-Norwich, is stepping down in January 2015 due to illness.

Freitag, who is a Selectman and the maintenance director at the Newton School, entered the race to challenge Masland over the eight-term veteran’s vote this spring in favor of a bill that would have folded Vermont’s small school districts into larger, regional entities.

Among Democrats, the atmosphere was collegial outside Tracy Hall in Norwich on Tuesday evening as candidates greeted voters entering the town hall to cast their ballots.

Michaels had a hectic schedule on Tuesday, as she had done her best to visit all four towns throughout the day.

“I knew what I was getting myself into — theoretically,” she said outside Tracy Hall that evening.

Irv Thomae wooed voters with his tiny dog, a Maltese-Yorkshire mix, by his side.

Although it was a close race among similar-minded candidates, the political hopefuls and their supporters played nice, trading jokes and sharing water throughout the late-summer day, as temperatures spiked into the 80s.

Briglin supporter James Bandler and Thomae campaigner Reeve Williams, both of Norwich, shared a spot on a traffic island in the center of town, waving to drivers and even helping to hold up each other’s signs.

“If anybody gets in, they’re going to be great,” Williams said of the would-be representatives.

Williams supported Thomae, who is the chairman of fiber optic cable company ECFiber, because high-speed broadband Internet access is important to keep young people in the state, he said.

Also, it was important to Williams that one of the representatives be from Norwich.

Bandler, who from time to time displayed a “Honk for Tim” sign to passing motorists, has known Briglin for 15 years, and appreciated the candidate’s combination of fiscal responsibility and progressive values.

“You want somebody with good policy chops (who) can hit the ground running,” Bandler said.

But the campaigners weren’t the only ones waiting outside the polls. Sharon Racusin, of Vermont Workers’ Center, gathered signatures for a petition in support of universal health care.

In its “Healthcare Is a Human Right” campaign, the center has fought for a universal health care system since 2008. Now, as Racusin put it, “is the tipping point,” where the state will look for ways to fund Green Mountain Care, Vermont’s single-payer health care system.

Briglin’s approach to health care funding, which the candidate has described in the past as similar to Medicare in its reliance on payroll deductions, earned the support of first-time voter Henry Butler, a sophomore at Trinity College in Connecticut and a lifelong Norwich resident.

Butler, who graduated from Hanover High in 2013, also appreciated that in a small legislative district like this one, his vote made a difference.

“It’s cool that my vote really seems to carry some weight,” he said.

Soon after 7 p.m., when Norwich tabulated its electronic results, Michaels said she saw the writing on the wall. After a dinner with close friends, she emailed Masland and Briglin to congratulate them.

While Thomae was disappointed not to be going to the House, he was glad to see Masland likely returning to the Legislature.

Moreover, the positive feedback he received from his would-be constituents had been a reward in itself, he said.

When asked whether he’d consider running again, Thomae demurred.

“I think it’s very unlikely that I’ll have another shot at this,” he said. “As long as we have two incumbents in my party, I wouldn’t want to challenge (them).”

The top vote-getter, Briglin, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday night.

The official results for the district, Windsor-Orange-2, will be available on Friday, said its clerk Bonnie Munday.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.