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Vt. Primary Options Prove Interesting

Montpelier — Voters in this year’s Vermont primary election can be excused for feeling confused: A Libertarian wants the Republican gubernatorial nomination, and a Progressive candidate for lieutenant governor seeks Democrats’ support.

Either Libertarian Dan Feliciano or Progressive Dean Corren could win a major party nomination if he can get just 250 write-in votes Tuesday in the major-party primaries.

The path is clearer for Corren, who faces no opposition for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor since John Bauer dropped out and endorsed Corren in June. Feliciano would not only have to clear the threshold of 250 write-in votes, but he would also have to garner more support than any of three other candidates: Scott Milne, Steve Berry and Emily Peyton.

Milne is widely considered the front-runner; he has the support of former Gov. Jim Douglas, incumbent Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and other leading Republicans.

Feliciano has been criticizing Milne for being insufficiently critical of incumbent Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin’s push for a state-backed universal health care system, often labeled single-payer.

“The other announced candidates clearly have little or no idea about where the incumbent governor has gone wrong, or just what they would do to guide Vermont to a better future,” Feliciano said recently.

Milne has countered by saying he wants to withhold judgment on Shumlin’s health care plan until more is known about how it will be paid for and what health services it would cover. He has said his candidacy is motivated by the desire to bring more political balance to Montpelier, which is now dominated by Democrats.

Universal health care, which Shumlin aides have said they would like to put in place by 2017, is shaping up as a major issue on the ballot. Corren has repeatedly said the chance to participate in fundamentally changing Vermont’s health care system is his main motivation for running.

Scott has taken a position similar to Milne’s, arguing that he needs to know more before taking a firm position on universal health care. “We don’t have the details for me to make that decision,” Scott said.

Vermont has no open U.S. Senate seat this year, so the question for voters on the federal level is whether to give Democratic Rep. Peter Welch a fifth term in Vermont’s lone seat in the U.S. House. Three Republicans are competing in the primary for a chance to face Welch in November: Mark Donka, of Hartford, Donald Nolte, of Derby and Donald Russell, of Shelburne.

In a debate on Burlington cable television station Channel 17 this past week, all three said they would focus on cutting federal spending and expressed skepticism about any need to combat global climate change.

Whoever wins that primary is expected to face an uphill battle against Welch, the Democratic incumbent. Donka lost to him in the 2012 general election by a margin of more than 3-to-1.

Polls have a range of opening times Tuesday morning in Vermont’s cities and towns; all close at 7 p.m.