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Primary Source: Low Turnout Ahead

  • John P. Gregg

Published: 7/14/2016 12:03:41 AM
Modified: 7/14/2016 12:03:46 AM

Vermont’s Aug. 9 primary is less than four weeks away, and campaigning by the five major gubernatorial candidates is intensifying.

Former state Sen. Peter Galbraith, D-Townshend, on Wednesday unveiled a $220 million plan to provide free primary and preventive care for all Vermonters, with the program financed by a 2 percent payroll tax on employers. Galbraith, aiming for progressive-minded voters, was joined by Deb Richter, a physician and long-time single-payer advocate, as he made his announcement.

Former state Sen. Matt Dunne, D-Hartland, is to announce an “anti-poverty” program today in Barre, and this week was endorsed by Teamsters Local 597, which represents more than 900 Vermonters, including package-delivery drivers and some municipal highway maintenance workers.

Dunne, a former Google executive, also released his third television ad, this one targeting women with issues such as paid family leave and support for Planned Parenthood funding, and featuring several women from the Upper Valley, including his wife, author Sarah Stewart Taylor; Hartford Selectwoman Becca White (identified as a “solar organizer”); and economic development consultant Jill Michaels, a longtime Dunne supporter.

Meanwhile, former Transportation Secretary Sue Minter, D-Waterbury, released the names of 38 environmentalists who are supporting her candidacy, including Darby Bradley, former president of the Vermont Land Trust, and is set to unveil more legislative endorsements today.

The three Democrats, along with Republican candidates Phil Scott, the lieutenant governor, and former Wall Street executive Bruce Lisman, will participate in a forum on climate change on Tuesday, sponsored by the Vermont Council on Rural Development, at Rutland’s Paramount Theater. The forum will be televised at 7 p.m. that night on Vermont PBS.

With the primary moved up from late August, forecasters are predicting low turnout by voters, many of whom will be on vacation (though early voting is underway in Vermont).

Political analyst Eric Davis, a retired Middlebury College professor, said he thinks turnout could be as low as 80,000, roughly 20 percent of Vermont’s 447,000 registered voters.

On the Republican side, Davis said Lisman, a political novice, has improved on the campaign trail, but may have trouble overcoming voters’ familiarity with Scott as they look to replace Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, who is not seeking a fourth term.

“He’s popular among the Republican base, and Republicans around the state see him as a winner, and someone who can get the governorship back, and that’s their highest priority,” Davis said of Scott.

Rather than issues, Davis said he thinks political organization — getting supporters to the polls — will decide the Democratic primary.

“The Democratic primary is very competitive. I think each of the three candidates has his or her own political base,” Davis said. He noted that none of the Democratic candidates is from Chittenden County, the most populous county in the state.

Sununu Spat

Etna Republican Jim Rubens, who is trying to topple U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., in the September primary, got blasted by former Gov. John Sununu, part of the mainstream political establishment, this week.

In an interview with NH1 News, Sununu questioned why Rubens, a former state senator who lost a GOP primary to Scott Brown in 2014, was running again.

“I think Jim is becoming a laughingstock, constantly running as a gadfly in these elections, and I think he wore out his welcome last cycle,” Sununu said.

Rubens responded with a statement calling it “juvenile name-calling” and added, “The Washington establishment is in the gutter with this attack because they now realize that Kelly Ayotte has lost the conservative base and will lose in November if she’s the nominee ... The only way to save this seat for Republicans is to do what I am doing: unite and expand the party around conservative solutions, making the economy work for regular Americans, keeping us safe, and healing social division.”

Not Voting for Trump

Windsor County Republican Chairman John MacGovern has opted not to attend next week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland because of his opposition to presumptive nominee Donald Trump.

“He is a man of such low character, such ignorance and of such unbalanced temperament, that he is clearly unfit for that high office. In addition, he is not a consistent conservative and has not displayed a proper respect for the Constitution,” MacGovern said in a letter to the chairman of the Vermont delegation.

“Consequently, I cannot vote for him or participate in any way, as the second Vermont alternate delegate, in a convention that supports him and would nominate him. Therefore, I have decided I will not be going to Cleveland.”

MacGovern, a Windsor resident and former state senator in Massachusetts, supported Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the GOP primaries. He said his “efforts over the next few months will be to support principled conservatives at the state level here in Vermont.”


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