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vt.Buzz ~ a political blog

Political notes from Free Press staff writers Terri Hallenbeck, Sam Hemingway and Nancy Remsen



Dem departure

Jon Copans, fresh from a post-election break on the beaches of the Dominican Republic, confirmed Thursday that he is leaving his job as executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party.

That means there are openings at the helm of both parties, as Republican Party Chairman Jim Barnett leaves tomorrow to work for presidential wannabe John McCain.

Copans, 32, who grew up in Brattleboro, has been the day-to-day operations person for the Dems for almost four years, or two election cycles, as he thinks of it. He's been working on Vermont campaigns for four cycles. Democrats have no arguments with the results Copans' team produced this year.

Copans said he's not sure what he wants to do next, though he'd like to stay in Vermont. He'll stay on until a successor is named, unless a better offer comes along first.

Some good successors are at hand, he said. This election attracted an unprecedented number of quality campaign workers, Copans said, and it makes sense for him to leave while one of them is still around to take the job.

These are the sort of jobs that require youthful exuberance and the willingness to do even the smallest of tasks, along with political savvy and durable skin. Thoughts on what sort of person either the Dems or the GOP should be looking for?

- Terri Hallenbeck



House GOPs

State House Republicans (yes, there are still a few - 49 to be exact) will meet Saturday to elect a minority leader and assistant minority leader.

Peg Flory of Pittsford, who was minority leader most of last session, won't be seeking the job for next session. She said with the death of her law partner earlier this year, her law practice is too demanding.

Steve Adams of Hartland appears to be the only candidate looking to replace Flory. Adams, one of two Republicans to be given a committee chairmanship by Democratic Speaker Gaye Symington last biennium, will give up the helm of the Fish & Wildlife Committee to take the caucus leadership position.

Adams is one of the drivers of the recent Revolt & Repeal anti-Act 68 push, a move that didn't go over well with Democrats, but generally Democrats consider Adams a reasonable person they look forward to working with.

"I think I have a reputation of bringing everybody together and I think that's what the Republican caucus needs - a rudder," Adams said.

Patti Komline of Dorset, who will be serving her second term, is the only known candidate for assistant minority leader, a position held last session by David Sunderland of Rutland.

Democrats will meet a week from Saturday to elect their House leaders. No changes are expected there.

- Terri Hallenbeck



How long?

Should Vermont give its governors four years in office or keep it at two? Is two years long enough to concentrate on the issues at hand? Is four years too long a leash to be giving anybody?

Those are the questions being pondered tonight at a discussion between University of Vermont political science professor Frank Bryan and former Gov. Madeleine Kunin. It's at 7 p.m. in Memorial Lounge, Waterman Building, UVM.

It'll be debated some more next legislative session. Don't expect the Legislature to just go granting the governor four-year terms without trying to do the same for themselves, or at least some of themselves.

The argument for the change: leaders need more time to sink their teeth into complicated issues.

The argument against: the voters need all the say they can get.

What do you think? And separate your thoughts from the individuals who hold these offices now because changing terms requires a constitutional amendment. If the Legislature acts on this forthwith, the earliest you'd see longer terms is 2012. By then, Jim Douglas will be president of Middlebury College and Gaye Symington will be head of Green Mountain Power's turbine division. (I made those last parts up completely.)

- Terri Hallenbeck



Who's not running?

Steve Howard, Democratic state representative from Rutland, says he plans to announce Sunday that he's running for mayor of Rutland.

That would make him the fourth candidate for the job to succeed John Cassarino, who is retiring when his term is up for vote in March. Also running are businessman and former Alderman Butch Paul Jr.; outgoing Rep. and current Alderman Christopher Louras; and high school teacher and former state Rep. Jerry Kreitzer.

Recent financial troubles in the city have apparently caught a lot of people's attention.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Plum assignment

Looks like Senator-elect Bernie Sanders independent political label is paying him -- and Vermont -- some early dividends.

USA Today reported this week that Sanders is getting special treatment - like a seat on the Budget Committee Sanders didn't even ask for -- from incoming Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who knows his party needs to have the support of the two independents, Sanders and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., to maintain its grip on the Senate. For USAT's full article, click HERE.

Sanders, according to the article, was surprised he got all the committee assignments he requested plus the Budget Committee post but he shouldn't have been. The article said Sanders is regarded as one of three "key players" for Senate Democrats because the party needs him and Lieberman to stick with the 49 elected Democrats so that the party can prevail on critical roll call votes.
The third incoming Senator in the group is Senator-elect Jim Webb, D-Va.. He's getting special treatment because he is a former Republican and could be tempted to vote with Republicans from time to time.

Kind of obliterates the ineffective tag often hung at Sanders for being an independent, doesn't it?

-- Sam Hemingway



Crowley out, then that's it

John Crowley, who's been commissioner of the Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration since Gov. Jim Douglas took office in 2003, will be stepping down.

Crowley and Agriculture Secretary Steve Kerr will be parting ways with state government, but that appears to be the extent of the departures from the governor's cabinet, spokesman Jason Gibbs said.

Crowley, who's retiring, will stay on until a replacement is found, Gibbs said.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Vermont This Week's future

Stewart Ledbetter will take over in the host's chair at Vermont This Week starting in January, Vermont Public Television announced Tuesday.

Among Vermont political geeks, the question of who would host the show has been hotly speculated.

Ledbetter, a veteran reporter at Channel 5, will replace Chris Graff, the former Associated Press bureau chief who will become vice president of communications for National Life in Montpelier. Graff has been the show's host since 1992.

The show, which airs on VPT on Friday nights at 7:30 and again on Sunday mornings at 11:30, is in its 25th year. The host and a smattering of Vermont reporters debate the week's news, with a heavy orientation toward political news.

Joe Merone, the show's executive director, said the show has very committed followers and
no huge changes are in the works regarding the format, though he's open to making tweaks.

Ledbetter's first show will be Jan. 5.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Report from Progressive convention

Progressive candidates for assorted political offices recounted lessons and tales from the campaign trail Saturday at the Vermont Progressive Party Convention in Montpelier.

Marvin Malek, unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor, stole the show with his observations. Malek admitted he should have started sooner. A first-time candidate, he said he figured out how to distill his views for debates, radio talk shows and newspapers, but he couldn't get used to the self-promotion involved in running for office.

He said he had worn lots of buttons over the years in support of causes. "But this was the first time I was promoting a person and that person was me."

While promising to remain active on issues, Malek told the crowd, "Whether or not I can ever run again and indulge myself in this orgy of self-promotion -- I don't know."

Malek also had an interesting observation about his Democratic rival in the race -- Matt Dunne.

"What Matt Dunne systematically tried to do is not oppose me, but absorb me," Malek said. Remembering the Malek is a doctor is important context for the rest of his next remark. "I felt like a nutrient in a small intestine."

In other news from the convention, Rep. Chris Pearson of Burlington will be the chief spokesperson for the six-member Progressive caucus in the House. In his absence, Rep. Sandy Haas, P-Rochester, will act as caucus leader.

The party also recognized some folks who toil out of the spotlight. Elizabeth Skarie of Williston and Richard Kemp of Burlington were presented with the Party's Zilliacus Award.

-- Nancy Remsen



Mr. Welch goes to Washington

Vermont's congressman-elect, Peter Welch, cast his first ballots Thursday, helping elect Rep. Steny Hoyer as House majority leader and Nancy Pelosi as speaker.

Welch, speaking shortly after the vote while munching on lunch with his fellow Democrats, said the atmosphere was not divisive the way some are portraying the vote. Hoyer was chosen over Rep. John Murtha, who was Pelosi's choice.

"The reality is the caucus concluded there's room for both," Welch said.

Murtha, he said, will take the role of party spokesman on the war in Iraq, the issue that won him attention in the last year, while Hoyer is the party leader.

More from Welch in Friday's paper.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Blame it on Dean?


Reports giving credit to Howard Dean, chairman of the DNC, for helping Democrats win control of the House and Senate, plus additional governorships and Legislatures have apparently been greatly exaggerated.

According to a story in today's New York Times, some top Democratic strategists are saying Dean ought to be fired because he is to blame for the party not winning even more seats in the House. The Dems won 29 seats (maybe more once all the reccounts are done) but longtime party stategist James Carville said they could have won 40 if Dean had worked closer with House and Senate leaders. To read the full story click here.

“He should be held accountable,” Carville said. “Do we want to go into ’08 with a C minus general at the D.N.C.?” Carville proposed that Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn., who lost a close Senate race, should take Dean's place as head of the DNC.

Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg is also quoted iin the Times article as saying if the DNC had just spent a little more money, the party could have thumped the Rs even more. The DNC took out a $10M loan in the last stages of the campaign season, but spent only half of it.

“There was a missed opportunity here,” Greenberg said. “I’ve sat down with Republican pollsters to discuss this race: They believe we left 10 to 20 seats on the table.”

Don Fowler, a veteran party strategist, told the Times it was "nuts" that Greenberg and Carville are attacking Dean.

“Asking Dean to step down now, after last week, is equivalent to asking Eisenhower to resign after the Normandy invasion,” Fowler said. “It’s just nonsense."

Ya think?

-- Sam Hemingway



Barnett departs

Jim Barnett, the bulldog-ish head of the Vermont Republican Party, is leaving the state to become regional campaign coordinator for Arizona Sen. John McCain's presidential exploratory committee in Boston, as of Dec. 1.

Barnett said this new job's been in the works since last summer.

Barnett was a one-person machine running the Republicans' show for the last three-and-a-half years. Some Republicans liked the way he bulldozed his way to get things done. Some others didn't quite like the way he played the bull in the china shop.

What were the net results of Barnett's work in Vermont? Who should replace him?

- Terri Hallenbeck


Flanagan says thanks

Ed Flanagan visited Fletcher Allen Health Care today to thank the many people who played roles in his recovery from a car accident a year ago. It was an emotional visit, with Flanagan repeatedly thanking the group of doctors, nurses, social workers and others who dropped by to see their former patient. And they thanked him back, saying that seeing him walking and talking was their reward.

Flanagan said he had wanted to make the visit for a long time, but put it off during the campaign season. Still, it wasn't like he didn't mix a little politics into his visit, giving a short speech in which he pledged to work for universal health care. He noted with a smile that everyone in the room might not agree with his politicis, but they made it possible for him to return to the Legislature. He was recently re-elected to the state Senate. "I'm back," he said, "having all the political arguments."

"Standing before you, with the breath you salvaged, I express my deepest gratitude."

For more on Flanagan's visit, look for my article tomorrow.

-- Nancy Remsen


London calling

The British Labour Party, stuck in the doldrums in the polls thanks to voter fatigue -- if not anger -- with its leader Prime Minister Tony Blair, is turning to former Vermont governor and current Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean for help.

According to a story in the Nov. 11 on-line Guardian (to read the full story click HERE) the Labourites have invited Dean to visit the British isles next month to share with them his expertise on grassroots politics, Internet organizing and essentially how to rebuild a tattered party infrastructure.

Seems like Dean is starting to get some credit for his 50-state strategy for rebuilding the Democratic Party. It wasn't so long ago that party leaders were fuming over his stubborn insistence on sticking with his long-term strategy rather than give in and use the DNC's money and muscle exclusively in "battleground" states where the races are traditionally close.

Dean's strategy looks like a stroke of genius now, given how victories in previously blood-red states like Indiana, Nebraska and Montana helped the party take over control of both the House and Senate, as well as a majority of the governorships in the 50 states.

Looks like Dean is going to be part of national (and international) politics for the long term, doesn't it.

-- Sam Hemingway



Life after an election

For the two Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor, there is life after an election loss.

John Tracy of Burlington, a soon-to-be former legislator who was eliminated from contention for the state's number two job in the September Democratic primary, will start a new job next week.

Tracy becomes an outreach staff representative for Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, working from the senator's Montpelier office, according to Chuck Ross, director of Leahy's Vermont operations. Tracy will be responsible for networking with groups involved in health, education, human services and veterans affairs.

Meanwhile Matt Dunne, a soon-to-be former state senator who defeated Tracy in September only to come up short of the votes needed to oust incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, said Tuesday he's taking his time considering his options.

"I have a couple of consulting gigs that I had lined up for November and December," Dunne said. He has a lot of wood to get in, he added.

Dunne had wrapped up his work as associate director of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Social Sciences at Dartmouth College in the summer and devoted himself to his campaign during the fall.

Dunne said his career to date has focused on entrepreneurship, service and politics and he expects to continue in one of these areas. Whatever he does, he said, he will be rooted in Vermont.

-- Nancy Remsen


Negative laundry

The Senate Democrats had done their voting on the pro tem Monday afternoon, had decided to put off a decision on majority leader, and thought they were just about ready to leave the conference room at the Gifford Medical Center nursing home when Sen. Bobby Starr spoke up.

Starr, the truck driving Democrat from the Kingdom, was none too pleased with what he called a negative mailing from the Chittenden County Senate Fund that targeted Sen. George Coppenrath of Caledonia County. A negative ad from Chittenden County has a way of backfiring in the Northeast Kindgom, Starr said. As in, voters in Caledonia County don’t want anybody from Burlington telling them how to do anything.

The fund, which doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with Chittenden County, spent $3,224 on a mailing criticizing Coppenrath, a Republican, who was seeking his first election to the seat after being appointed last year. Coppenrath ended up winning.

As Starr spoke, the rest of the senators in the room alternated between denying they had anything to do with the ads and desperately wanting Starr to hush up. They clearly didn’t want any dirty laundry aired in front of the media. Nobody wanted to discuss whether Starr had a valid point or admit that some of them complain when others target them with negative ads.

Jennifer Leathers, the campaign aide who worked for Senate Democrats this election, finally defended the ads: "What we did was talk about people’s voting records. We held people’s feet to the fire."

Starr responded: "I hope you don’t ever come to Orleans County to help Bobby Starr."

There were rumblings about changing the name of the Chittenden County Senate PAC.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Shumlin Part II

Newly elected Sen. Peter Shumlin of Windsor County won the vote among Senate Democrats this afternoon to be their nominee for Senate president pro tempore, the leader who essentially decides what legislation lives and dies.

The vote appeared nearly tied between Shumlin and Sen. John Campbell of Windsor County going into the room, but what actually made it onto the bits of paper is a secret, except that Shumlin won.

Just as Peter Welch made a return to the pro tem's office after a breather from politics, so too will Shumlin. The new "Peter principle." This Peter said he has no immediate eyes on higher office, though the other Peter probably would have said the same.

Shumlin, in his pitch to caucus members, appeared ready to do battle with Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, whom he said has given "lip service" to agriculture, spent none of his political capital on the environment and needed pushing on health-care reform.

Sen. Dick Sears of Bennington County commented on his way out that in some ways it was easier to run the Judiciary Committee when there was a political split among members.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Senate snippets

The election may be over, but apparently there were still enough bills to pay that Republican Rich Tarrant had to write his campaign another $300,000 in checks on Nov. 8, according to his latest filing with the latest Federal Election Commission.

The new, and perhaps last infusion of money pushes the amount he spent self-financing his campaign to $6,875,000 and the total amount of money raised for his campaign past the $7M mark to at least $7,188,294.

Divide the by the number of votes he got, unofficially 84,517, and it appears Tarrant set a new record for money spent per voter by a self-financed Senate candidate: $85.05. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the previous record was set by Jon Corzine, who spent $41.08 on every vote he won in a successful 2000 bid for the Senate in New Jersey. The full post-election FEC reports come out later this week.

Meanwhile, the oohing and ahhing among the left in the aftermath of Bernie Sanders win last week is in full tilt over at Daily Kos. For a look at what the lefty world is saying about Sanders, click HERE.

--Sam Hemingway




The guv's peeps

It was about 1:30 p.m. Thursday when Gov. Douglas was telling us at a press conference that he wouldn't be surprised if some members of his staff moved on. After four years, this government service thing can get old for some people, he said.

Who? we asked. He wasn't offering any particulars.

It was about three hours later when the press release arrived that Ag Secretary Steve Kerr would be leaving. Douglas' spokesman Jason Gibbs said the meeting with Kerr happened after the press conference. He wouldn't say whether the governor had an inkling the resignation was about to happen.

Any predictions on who's next to go?

- Terri Hallenbeck



The Statehouse environs were veritably giddy today with people who’d been freshly elected. Something about having people go to the polls and put a check next to your name must infuse you with something caffeine can’t quite do.

House Speaker Gaye Symington and Gov. Jim Douglas took turns saying that the Democrats’ newly earned veto-proof majority wouldn’t change much about their working relationship. Some in the halls were a little dubious it would be that simple.

One way or another, the sense of new-year-at-school change was in the air. Who will be pro tem of the Senate now that Peter Welch is headed to Washington (former pro tem Peter Shumlin and Majority Leader John Campbell are duking it out)? How many committee chairmanships will change in the House and Senate? Will there be retribution for those who proposed Revolt and Repeal over the property tax? All questions that don’t have answers just yet.

Anybody have predictions on pro tem? How about committee shuffling?

— Terri Hallenbeck



All the House you can ponder

Here's AP's total (though unofficial) results for state House seats. It's enough to keep a good political wonk going for a week. Enjoy.

Thanks to Warren Kitzmiller for pointing out that the list is for CONTESTED seats. Those who ran unopposed (like Kitzmiller) aren't on here.

- Terri Hallenbeck

Addison-3 (two seats)
Gregory Clark, GOP (i) 1,984 - 30 percent
Kitty Oxholm, GOP 1,536 - 23 percent
Liz Markowski, Dem 1,257 - 19 percent
Diane Lanpher, Dem 1,217 - 18 percent
April Jin, Prg 638 - 10 percent

Addison-4 (Two seats)
Michael Fisher, Dem (i) 2,514 - 35 percent
Dave Sharpe, Dem (i) 2,348 - 33 percent
Barbara Rainville, GOP 1,479 - 21 percent
Nathan Fitzgerald, GOP 844 - 12 percent

Addison-5 (one seat)

Christopher Bray, Dem 1,029 - 51 percent
Harvey Smith, GOP (i) 979 - 49 percent

Addison-Rutland-1 (one seat)
Will Stevens, Ind 1,105 - 64 percent
Steve Jackson, GOP 625 - 36 percent

Bennington-2-2 (two seats)
Mary Morrissey, GOP (i) 1,616 - 35 percent
Anne Mook, Dem (i) 1,474 - 32 percent
Albert Krawczyk, GOP 1,080 - 24 percent
Claude DeLucia, Prg 419 - 9 percent

Bennington-5 (one seat)

Cynthia Browning, Dem 962 - 57 percent
Gerald Woodard, GOP 729 - 43 percent

Bennington-Rutland-1 (one seat)
Patti Komline, GOP (i) 1,219 - 61 percent
Ed Weissman, Dem 769 - 39 percent

Caledonia-2 (one seat)

Lucy Leriche, Dem (i) 1,503 - 81 percent
Michael Roosevelt, GOP 363 - 19 percent

Caledonia-3 (two seats)
David Clark, GOP (i) 1,384 - 29 percent
Don Bostic, GOP (i) 1,319 - 28 percent
Bob South, Dem 1,230 - 26 percent
Brendan Hadash, Dem 790 - 17 percent

Caledonia-4 (two seats)
Richard Lawrence, GOP (i) 1,986 - 40 percent
Cola Hudson, GOP (i) 1,718 - 34 percent
Steve Smith, Dem 1,302 - 26 percent

Chittenden 1-1 (one seat)
Bill Lippert, Dem (i) 1,333 - 68 percent
Johanna Shal, GOP 640 - 32 percent

Chittenden 1-2 (one seat)
Scott Orr, Dem (i) 1,043 - 47 percent
Ed Finkbeiner, GOP 625 - 28 percent
Ed Stone, Ind 540 - 24 percent

Chittenden-2 (two seats)
Mary Peterson, Dem (i) 2,621 - 32 percent
Jim McCullough, Dem (i) 2,442 - 30 percent
Deborah Beckett, GOP 1,655 - 20 percent
Michael Quaid, GOP 1,441 - 18 percent

Chittenden-3-1 (two seats)
Kurt Wright, GOP (i) 1,772 - 29 percent
Bill Aswad, Dem (i) 1,747 - 28 percent
Susan Wheeler, Dem 1,167 - 19 percent
Gene Shaver, GOP 781 - 13 percent
Ellie Blais, Ind 707 - 11 percent

Chittenden-3-2 (one seat)
Mark Larson, Dem (i) 1,178 - 65 percent
Craig Gutchell, GOP 632 - 35 percent

Chittenden-3-3 (two seats)
Jason Lorber, Dem (i) 1,705 - 33 percent
Rachel Weston, Dem 1,676 - 32 percent
Heather Riemer, Prg 1,021 - 20 percent
Katherine Valloch, Prg 778 - 15 percent

Chittenden-3-6 (two seats)
Clem Bissonnette, Dem 1,487 - 34 percent
Kenneth Atkins, Dem (i) 1,397 - 32 percent
Jean Szilva, Prg 1,119 - 26 percent
Israel Smith, Prg 354 - 8 percent

Chittenden-3-7 (one seat)
Michele Kupersmith, Dem (i) 1,250 - 69 percent
Dawn Teixeira, GOP 560 - 31 percent

Chittenden-3-8 (one seat)
Ann Pugh, Dem (i) 1,989 - 84 percent
Andrew Thomas, Lib 384 - 16 percent

Chittenden-3-9 (one seat)
Sonny Audette, Dem (i) 938 - 53 percent
Mark Brigham, GOP 822 - 47 percent
Chittenden-5-2 (one seat)
Joan Lenes, Dem 1,212 - 58 percent
Stephen Dates, GOP (i) 872 - 42 percent

Chittenden-6-2 (two seats)
Peter Hunt, Dem (i) 2,739 - 42 percent
Tim Jerman, Dem (i) 2,580 - 40 percent
Michael Boyer, GOP 1,181 - 18 percent

Chittenden-6-3 (one seat)
Martha Heath, Dem (i) 1,262 - 59 percent
Tim Mack, GOP 889 - 41 percent

Chittenden-7-2 (two seats)
Patrick Brennan, GOP (i) 1,926 - 32 percent
Kristy Spengler, Dem 1,446 - 24 percent
Bud Meyers, Dem 1,396 - 23 percent
Kathrine Niquette, GOP (i) 1,224 - 20 percent

Chittenden-8 (two seats)
Gaye Symington, Dem (i) 3,102 - 34 percent
Bill Frank, Dem (i) 2,880 - 31 percent
Daneen Roy, GOP 1,645 - 18 percent
Eileen Haupt, GOP 1,619 - 18 percent

Chittenden-9 (two seats)
Donald Turner, GOP (i) 2,398 - 44 percent
Reginald Godin, Dem 1,556 - 29 percent
Daniel Fitzgerald, GOP 1,476 - 27 percent

Essex-Caledonia (one seat)
Janice Peaslee, GOP (i) 888 - 57 percent
Stephanie Sterling, Dem 659 - 43 percent

Essex-Caledonia-Orleans (one seat)
Bill Johnson, GOP (i) 933 - 59 percent
Muriel O’Gorman, Prg 638 - 41 percent

Franklin-1 (two seats)
Carolyn Branagan, GOP (i) 1,728 - 27 percent
Gary Gilbert, Dem 1,708 - 27 percent
Brian Dunsmore, GOP (i) 1,662 - 26 percent
Peter D. Moss, Dem 690 - 11 percent
Bob Shea, Ind 539 - 9 percent

Franklin-2 (two seats)
Richard Howrigan, Dem (i) 1,801 - 28 percent
Ron Allard, Dem (i) 1,793 - 28 percent
Lynn Dickinson, GOP 1,486 - 23 percent
James Gregoire, GOP 1,036 - 16 percent
Dick Day, Ind 286 - 4 percent

Franklin-3 (two seats)
Kathleen Keenan, Dem (i) 1,372 - 35 percent
James Fitzgerald, Dem 1,206 - 30 percent
Michael Biggie, GOP 731 - 18 percent
Sam Farrar, GOP 663 - 17 percent

Franklin-4 (one seat)
Avis Gervais, Dem (i) 1,016 - 70 percent
Hal Bill, Ind 435 - 30 percent

Franklin-5 (two seats)
Kathy Lavoie, GOP (i) 2,037 - 42 percent
Michel Consejo, Dem 1,534 - 32 percent
Brian Savage, GOP 1,241 - 26 percent

Grand Isle-Chittenden-1-1 (two seats)
Mitzi Johnson, Dem (i) 2,132 - 29 percent
Ira Trombley, Dem (i) 1,993 - 27 percent
Michael Guernsey, GOP 1,829 - 25 percent
Hardy Machia, Lib 1,339 - 18 percent

Lamoille-1 (one seat)
Heidi Scheuermann, GOP 1,370 - 59 percent
Cam Page, Dem 968 - 41 percent

Lamoille-2 (one seat)
Linda Martin, Dem (i) 1,138 - 59 percent
Harold Bailey, GOP 804 - 41 percent

Lamoille-Washington-1 (two seats)
Shap Smith, Dem (i) 2,435 - 41 percent
Peter Peltz, Dem 1,736 - 29 percent
Alexandra Garven, GOP 961 - 16 percent
Retta Dunlap, GOP 857 - 14 percent

Orange-1 (two seats)
Susan Davis, Prg 1,645 - 28 percent
Philip Winters, GOP (i) 1,624 - 28 percent
Sylvia Kennedy, GOP (i) 1,481 - 26 percent
Julie Ann Thayer, Ind 1,042 - 18 percent

Orange-Addison-1 (two seats)
Patsy French, Dem (i) 2,218 - 38 percent
Jim Hutchinson, Dem (i) 2,062 - 35 percent
Bob Wolffe, GOP 884 - 15 percent
David Atkinson, Lib 704 - 12 percent

Orange-Caledonia 1 (one seat)
Bud Otterman, GOP (i) 912 - 53 percent
Peter Herman, Dem 736 - 43 percent
Boots Wardinski, LUn 59 - 3 percent

Orleans-1 (two seats)
Loren Shaw, GOP (i) 1,575 - 29 percent
Scott Wheeler, GOP 1,535 - 28 percent
Winston Dowland, Prg (i) 1,337 - 25 percent
Thomas Jensen, Prg 985 - 18 percent

Orleans-Caledonia 1 (two seats)
John Rodgers, Dem (i) 1,939 - 32 percent
John Morley, GOP (i) 1,670 - 27 percent
Nancy Potak, Prg 1,604 - 26 percent
Benjamin Todd, GOP 879 - 14 percent

Orleans-Franklin 1 (one seat)
Dexter Randall, Prg (i) 1,254 - 66 percent
Lee Kittell, Ind 632 - 34 percent

Rutland-3 (one seat)
Gail Fallar, Dem (i) 1,014 - 52 percent
John McTaggart, GOP 941 - 48 percent

Rutland-5-1 (one seat)
Virginia McCormack, Dem 1,045 - 56 percent
Jeff Manney, GOP 807 - 44 percent

Rutland-5-2 (one seat)
Peg Andrews, Dem 801 - 51 percent
Thomas DePoy, GOP (i) 774 - 49 percent

Rutland-5-4 (one seat)
Gale Courcelle, Dem 761 - 78 percent
David Allaire, GOP (i) 212 - 22 percent

Rutland-7 (one seat)
Joe Acinapura, GOP (i) 984 - 55 percent
Mitchell Pearl, Dem 792 - 45 percent

Rutland-8 (one seat)
John Malcolm, Dem (i) 1,025 - 61 percent
Richard Holcomb, GOP 669 - 39 percent

Rutland-Windsor-1 (one seat)
Harry Chen, Dem (i) 1,182 - 58 percent
Ira Pike, GOP 849 - 42 percent

Washington-2 (two seats)
Maxine Grad, Dem (i) 2,156 - 38 percent
Anne Donahue, GOP (i) 1,666 - 30 percent
Nathan Freeman, Dem 1,242 - 22 percent
Kathleen Lott, GOP 566 - 10 percent

Washington-3-1 (one seat)
Leo Valliere, GOP (i) 839 - 51 percent
Paul Poirier, Dem 816 - 49 percent

Washington-3-3 (one seat)
Pat McDonald, GOP 758 - 54 percent
Steve Green, Dem (i) 652 - 46 percent

Washington-4 (two seats)
Topper McFaun, GOP (i) 2,545 - 40 percent
Tom Koch, GOP (i) 2,258 - 36 percent
George Clain, Dem 1,485 - 24 percent

Windham-2 (one seat)
Ann Manwaring, Dem 752 - 43 percent
Paul Kasanoff, GOP 510 - 29 percent
Patience Merriman, Prg 473 - 27 percent

Windham-3-2 (one seat)
Daryl Pillsbury, Ind (i) 1,130 - 85 percent
Ian Bigelow, Oth 205 - 15 percent

Windham-5 (two seats)
David Deen, Dem (i) 2,404 - 42 percent
Mike Mrowicki, Dem 2,367 - 42 percent
Peter Barrett, GOP 900 - 16 percent

Windham-Bennington 1 (one seat)
John Moran, Dem 768 - 50 percent
Philip Bartlett, GOP (i) 761 - 50 percent

Windham-Bennington-Windsor-1 (one seat)
Rick Hube, GOP (i) 1,144 - 56 percent
Tom Buchanan, Dem 909 - 44 percent

Windsor-1-1 (one seat)
Kathy Pellett, Dem (i) 1,207 - 65 percent
Wendy Truax, GOP 653 - 35 percent

Windsor-6-1 (one seat)
Mark Mitchell, Dem 986 - 53 percent
Scott Milne, GOP 886 - 47 percent

Windsor-6-2 (two seats)
Hilde Ojibway, Dem 1,653 - 32 percent
John Clerkin, GOP 1,327 - 26 percent
Michael Kainen, GOP (i) 1,125 - 22 percent
Kevin Christie, Dem 1,092 - 21 percent

Windsor-Orange 1 (one seat)
David Ainsworth, GOP 922 - 53 percent
Rozo McLaughlin, Dem (i) 811 - 47 percent

Windsor-Orange-2 (two seats)
Jim Masland, Dem (i) 3,165 - 41 percent
Margaret Cheney, Dem 3,054 - 40 percent
Tod Moses, GOP 812 - 11 percent
Richard Wilson, GOP 693 - 9 percent

Windsor-Rutland 1 (one seat)
Dennis Devereux, GOP 859 - 52 percent
Jean Morrill, Dem 789 - 48 percent

Windsor-Rutland 2 (one seat)
Sandy Haas, Prg (i) 1,193 - 57 percent
Neal Fox, GOP 897 - 43 percent


Election updates

Democrat Tom Salmon conceded the auditor's race to Republican incumbent Randy Brock around 1:30 p.m. Salmon said he looked at the 800-vote gap between his tally and Brock's and the number of towns still outstanding and concluded he couldn't win. So he made the call.

Brock had said earlier in the day he didn't expect Salmon to concede with their tallies so close. He said he appreciated Salmon's decision.

Progressive Martha Abbott also was a contender in the auditor's race. She received 9 percent of the vote. That's enough to ensure that the Progressive Party retains its major party status. To become and remain a major party, a party candidate must receive at least 5 percent of the votes cast in a statewide race.

The Liberty Union Party also will retain its major party status -- if it meets the other local organizing requirements. Murray Ngoima, Liberty Union candidate for state treasurer, received 6 percent of the vote.

-- Nancy Remsen


A new side of Sorrell

Here's a tidbit of post-election advice: Go immediately to the Free Press home page and watch the video of Attorney General Bill Sorrell's election night appearance. Who knew the AG could boogie?

-- Candace Page


Essex Junction malfunction

I left the newsroom last night confident in the story I had written for today's paper -- that Essex residents had voted down a measure to merge with Essex Junction into a single municipality in 2009.

As it turns out, I was wrong. As the Front Page of the Free Press Web site (and tomorrow's print edition) explains, Essex and Essex Junction are one step closer to dissolving into the town of Essex Junction.

First and foremost, I take responsibility and apologize for the error. Just as the Free Press strives to be fair and accurate, I strive for such goals as a journalist. I missed that goal last night.
Before describing how the error unfolded, I'll direct you here. In that story, I outline the "two bucket" system and explain how two merger votes from each village taxpayer are legally regarded as one vote in two elections.

And yet, even having reported and explained that to readers in Essex, Essex Junction and beyond, I forgot one crucial detail in the deadline rush last night.

When we receive results from Essex, they come in three district sets. Totals for District 6-1 (town), totals for District 6-2 (village) and totals for a section of District 6-3 (town). We add them together to provide townwide results.

I, however, didn't realize that I had only added 6-1 and 6-3. The town vote I tabulated was that of the town outside the village. By that count, merger failed.

But merger PASSED when the town within the village vote was added. By a 209-vote margin, according to the figures provided by Town Clerk Cheryl Moomey.

Confusing? You bet - a sentiment felt both within the newsroom and, as an office employee said, in the Essex town clerk's office at 81 Main St. A woman who works in the clerk's office told the Free Press this morning that votes were still being counted.

"They overlooked something," said Lynn Romero. "And they're going over it."

Although I have covered the merger issue since the first letters began flying between the Selectboard and trustees almost two years ago, I dropped the ball at the 11th hour. I'm sorry about that. But I will be continuing to cover the issue and provide information about the long process ahead - and I hope that you keep on reading and discussing the issue with me.

- Victoria Welch


Who has the muscle in the Legislature?

The Associated Press has just moved a story confirming what we also had concluded -- Republicans no longer have enough seats in the House to sustain a veto by Republican Gov. Jim Douglas. They will have just 49 seats in the 150 member House. That's down from 60 these past two years.

That means an alliance of 93 Democrats, two independents and six Progressives could override a gubernatorial veto -- if there was one. A two-thirds majority is required to override a veto.

In the Senate, Democrats also have the numbers to override a veto, just as they did for the past two years. With the outcome for one Caledonia seat pending, Democrats appear to have 23 of the 30 seats.

--Nancy Remsen


Essex merger, Wednesday

It appears the village of Essex Junction and the town of Essex may have agreed to merge after all. I reported on the blog last night that the long-debated proposal had passed overwhelmingly in the village but failed by a big margin in the town. Here's what went wrong with our reporting, it appears: the village is a doughnut hole in the town. Residents of the village ALSO are residents of the town. So when town votes are totaled, the village must be added in. While Essex officials say they're still checking their numbers, it appears merger may have passed, 4376 to 4167.

Stay tuned to breaking news on the Free Press home page today for a definitive story.

In the meantime, my final thought: I never thought I live to see Essex adopt this sensible solution to double government in my lifetime!

-- Candace Page


State senate latest

Here's the latest results from AP on the state Senate:

Bennington – two seats¶

16 of 17 precincts - 94 percent ¶

Dick Sears, Dem (i) 8,825 ¶
Robert Hartwell, Dem 6,142 ¶
Alan MacDougall, GOP 3,558 ¶
Winker Gates, GOP 3,497 ¶
Caledonia – two seats¶

18 of 23 precincts - 78 percent ¶

Jane Kitchel, Dem (i) 7,524 ¶
George Coppenrath, GOP (i) 6,221 ¶
Matthew Choate, Dem 6,025 ¶
Ward Reed, GOP 3,133 ¶
Chittenden – six seats¶

20 of 23 precincts - 87 percent ¶

Doug Racine, Dem 36,295 ¶
Edward Flanagan, Dem (i) 33,810 ¶
Jim Condos, Dem (i) 32,255 ¶
Ginny Lyons, Dem (i) 29,871 ¶
Hinda Miller, Dem (i) 27,368 ¶
Diane Snelling, GOP (i) 25,068 ¶
Dennis McMahon, Dem 22,074 ¶
Dennis Delaney, GOP 19,881 ¶
John Stewart, GOP 16,638 ¶
Robert Sims, GOP 13,170 ¶
Agnes Clift, GOP 13,129 ¶
Chuck Furtado, GOP 11,592 ¶
Franklin – two seats¶

11 of 14 precincts - 79 percent ¶

Sara Kittell, Dem (i) 7,163 ¶
Don Collins, Dem (i) 6,819 ¶
Alan Parent, GOP 6,801 ¶
John Whitney, GOP 3,796 ¶
Lamoille – one seat ¶

8 of 8 precincts - 100 percent ¶

Susan Bartlett, Dem (i) 5,414 ¶
Jim Black, GOP 3,835 ¶
Orange – one seat ¶

9 of 11 precincts - 82 percent ¶

Mark MacDonald, Dem (i) 4,276 ¶
Stephen Webster, GOP 2,628 ¶
Rutland – three seats¶

22 of 30 precincts - 73 percent ¶

Bill Carris, Dem 8,757 ¶
Hull Maynard, GOP (i) 7,376 ¶
Kevin Mullin, GOP (i) 6,522 ¶
Wendy Wilton, GOP (i) 6,166 ¶
Joe Tilden, Dem 5,380 ¶
Hope Blucher, Dem 5,355 ¶
Washington – three seats¶

19 of 22 precincts - 86 percent ¶

Ann Cummings, Dem (i) 13,063 ¶
Bill Doyle, GOP (i) 11,920 ¶
Phil Scott, GOP (i) 11,594 ¶
Kimberly Cheney, Dem 10,612 ¶
Donny Osman, Dem 10,080 ¶
Jim Parker, GOP 6,923 ¶

Windham – two seats¶

20 of 23 precincts - 87 percent ¶

Peter Shumlin, Dem 9,575 ¶
Jeanette White, Dem (i) 8,698 ¶
Aaron Diamondstone, LUn 1,258 ¶
Benjamin Mitchell, LUn 1,092 ¶

Windsor – three seats¶

20 of 24 precincts - 83 percent ¶

John Campbell, Dem (i) 13,136 ¶
Dick McCormack, Dem 12,304 ¶
Alice Nitka, Dem 10,722 ¶
Kent Butterfield, GOP 6,598 ¶
John MacGovern, GOP 6,208 ¶
Anthony Paino, GOP 5,147 ¶
Mwaura Ngoima, LUn 1,587 ¶


Plurality question

Just noticed someone asked whether the Legislature would be called upon to decide a winner if no candidate had 50 percent in the auditor's race. No.

The only races that end up in the Legislature's hands if no candidate has a majority are governor, lieutenant governor and treasurer. Whoever has the most votes in the races for the other three statewide offices -- auditor, secretary of state and attorney general -- wins.

-- Nancy Remsen


Midnight, and good night

What a night to begin one's blogging career! Vermonters turned out in great numbers to send Bernie Sanders to the Senate, to split their tickets by re-electing a Republican governor while increasing the Democratic majority in the Statehouse.

Thank you for reading. We hope you'll come back tomorrow for updates from our political team as we dissect what tonight's results mean for Vermonters, in Montpelier and in Washington.

And we'd love to know what you found helpful/informative/enlightening. 2008 isn't far away, and we'll want to provide even more useful information and analysis then.

-- Candace Page



11:35 p.m. Welch-Rainville race

Peter Welch and Martha Rainville have been so busy congratulating themselves on running a clean, civil campaign that I'm tempted to leave the job to them. But, given the nastiness of campaigns across the country, and Richard Tarrant's attack ads here at home, I guess I do need to add my thank you to their self-praise.

Tarrant ran a nasty campaign and lost big. Rainville ran a positive campaign and lost small: Future candidates take note.

I take the two candidates at their word that they ran clean because it was the right thing to do. I'm sure they are sincere. But I do have to point out that running clean was certainly to each candidate's advantage: Snarling attack ads by the Rainville campaign would have damaged her soccer-mom-in-Army-fatigues image, perhaps her most powerful appeal. And what would Welch have gained trying to slime a woman who had become the face of Vermont's National Guard troops serving in Iraq? Whatever Vermonters think about the war (and we certainly know what most of them think), support of the troops has been universal.

Rainville lost because she was a Republican in a year when Vermont voters turned out to vote against President Bush, the Iraq war and the direction of the country. They were happy to put a Republican back in the governor's seat, but they weren't sending any more GOP votes to Washington.

But it's also true she didn't run a perfect campaign. She was very clear on issues like personal integrity, but less clear -- not to say waffling -- on Iraq, on wilderness, on global warming. She spent too many days on the defensive when a campaign staffer was caught plagiarizing issue statements (stealing Hillary Clinton's words!) for her website.

Don't count her out down the road. She ended the race gracefully, her attractive persona intact and, as she said, "looking forward to the future."

-- Candace Page


11:30 p.m., More on voter turnout

Reporters and editors collecting results from Vermont towns keep running over to me with exclamation points in their voices. 69 percent turnout in Elmore! 69 percent turnout in Richmond! Nearly 80 percent turnout in South Burlington! 81 percent in Weybridge!

Who says voters are apathetic and turned off by politics?

-- Candace Page


11:15 p.m. Chittenden Senate, so far

No results yet from Charlotte, Essex or South Burlington. Without those key towns, here's who is leading (no surprises, yet), starting with the highest vote-getter:

Doug Racine (D)
Ed Flanagan (D)
Jim Condos (D)
Ginny Lyons (D)
Hinda Miller (D)
Diane Snelling (R)

Former Republican senator Dennis Delaney is 7th, about 4,000 votes behind Snelling, almost 7,000 behind Hinda Miller.

-- Candace Page


11:10 p.m. Rainville's concession

Just caught up with Republican Martha Rainville's concession speech in the U.S. House race. She struck the same positive note that characterized her campaign, expressing disappointment but saying, "I believe in this great democracy. The voters have a chance to record their thoughts and feelings."

Later, she told a television reporter, "Of course it is a disappointment in the sense I won't be able to serve in that way. But when one door closes, another opens. I'm looking forward to the future."

-- Candace Page


10:40 p.m., Welch claims victory

How sweet this victory must be for Peter Welch, the end of a long comeback trail. He was a state Senate star in the 80s, then lost a bid for the governorship in 1990 when former Gov. Richard Snelling unexpectedly came out of retirement.

Welch disappeared from the political scene until he was appointed to the state Senate by Gov. Howard Dean, service made difficult and bittersweet by the long illness of his wife, Joan, who died last year.

Welch spoke moments ago at Democratic headquarters. He beganby congratulating his opponent, Martha Rainville, for a positive, issue-oriented campaign. "Vermont is setting a standard for how debates should occur on very tough issues," he said.

Welch seemed relaxed and very, very happy, of course. He cracked jokes, thanked legions of people and said, "I got a call -- I'm starting to get calls, you know -- from Barack Obama" the Illinois senator. Welch said he recommended his campaign manager, Carolyn Dwyer, to Obama if he runs for president.

"When we started this campaign 16 months ago, I saw indifference and despair," he said. "People knew the country was heading in the wrong direction and they doubted whether we could turn it in the right direction," he said.

He urged his supporters, "Whatever the obstacles and challenges we've got to get up every morning and meet them squarely, without knowing the outcome."

-- Candace Page


Graceful exit

Republican Rich Tarrant got roundly thumped in his first foray in elective politics and roundly criticised for the tenor of his political ads, but as he exited the political scene Tuesday night with a touch of class.

After conceding defeat at the Doubletree Burlington Hotel in South Burlington, he took time to speak to the young workers who had worked for or supported his campaign. Here's what he had to say.

"Losing can be a difficult thing, especially if you're young ... I have a philosophy: You move on quickly. You don't spend a lot of time thinking about the past. "

Tarrant then told a story about how, after a tryout with the Boston Celtics, he was cut by then coach Red Auerbach. Tarrant said three hours later, he was wearing his only suit and applying for a job at IBM.

"You've got to move on. Looking at the past can be helpful for educational purposes. We don't look at the past for remorseful purposes. We get through that quickly. Remorse is good and sadness is a good emotion. So I want everybody now to take a moment of silence. And this is remorse. You've got one minute."

The room went silent.

Five seconds later, Tarrant looked up and said "You're done."

-- Sam Hemingway


10:20 p.m., Waiting for Essex, S.Burlington

No word yet from South Burlington or Essex Town. Both places have hotly debated local issues on the ballot.

Essex Junction and Essex Town voters are being asked whether to merge their two government. Now that's a debate that's been going on longer than Bernie Sanders has been a Vermont politician. In the Junction, voters decisively approved the idea, 2,922-1085. The outcome could be very different in Essex Town, where a yes vote from skeptical residents may be harder to come by.

In South Burlington, voters must decide whether to change the charter to allow them to vote on the school budget. They'll also decide whether to give the City Council authority to impose a local option tax.

-- Candace Page


10:10 p.m. How about that turnout

There's been extraordinary turnout in at least some Vermont towns. In Danville, 64 percent of voters went to the polls; in Elmore, 70 percent; in North Hero, 70 percent.

In North Hero, a hot local issue -- the fate of the old town hall -- may have helped drive turnout. But elsewhere? I think a man I interviewed at my polling place in Burlington this afternoon nailed it: "This is one of the biggest elections in the history of our country." In parts of Vermont, at least, anger at the Bush administration, anger about the war in Iraq sent people to the polls in unusual numbers for a mid-term election.

National results aren't conclusive yet, but 2006 is starting to feel a lot like 1974, the year when public revulsion over Watergate swept Democrats -- including Sen. Patrick Leahy -- into Washington.

-- Candace Page


10 p.m., To recap, so far

Right now, it looks like tonight's vote will bear out the predictions of the pollsters, with Bernie Sanders and Peter Welch headed for Washington, while Republicans hold on to the state's top two offices.

Gov. Jim Douglas and Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie are both above 50 percent with a good chunk of the vote counted. Lots of ticket-splitting going on in Republican strongholds, where voters happily cast ballots for an independent, a Democrat and two Republicans.

Too early to tell yet what the makeup of the state Legislature will be, but Democrats appear poised to make gains in both chambers.

In the Senate, Democrats expect to pick up a Senate seat in Bennington County and might reel in a second one in Rutland. No word yet on Chittenden and Franklin county totals, where Republicans hope to make gains.

In the House, we also have reports of Democratic gains. No word yet of where Republicans might have picked up a seat or two.


9:40 p.m., A classic Sanders' speech

More from Bernie, a vintage speech, resonant of 30 years of his political speeches:

"The people of Vermont have said they are sick and tired of right-wing extremism and President Bush and Vp Cheney this state is going to move America in a very different direction.

"the time is long overdue for the U.S. senate represent the working familes of Aemrican and not just the rich and the powerful.... to end the national disgrace of childhood poverty while giving hundreds of millions of dollars of tax breaks to people who don't need it. the time is long overdue for the United States to join the rest of the industrial world and provide health care to every man, woman and child as a right of citizenship.

"This small state knows what the war in Iraq is about becuase we have lost more soldiers than any other state in America. The people are making it increasingly clear, we want the troops to come home."

-- Candace Page


Bernie begins victory speech

Here's Bernie, greeting the jubilant crowd at Democratic headquarters at the Wyndham:

"I didn't do it. We did it! Let us be very clear that we would not have won tonight without the hard work of everyone in this room and the support of thousands of Vermonters. From bottom of my heart I want to thank you for the incredibly hard work and the people of vt. for the incredible support we are receiving. I am deeply grateful that the people of Vermont are allowing me to represent this great state in the U.S. Senate."

-- Candace Page


9:10 p.m. Bernie's long road to the Senate

Battery Park, summer 1973. A shaggy-haired, blue-jeaned guy stood behind a table selling t-shirts to raise money for his third party, the Liberty Union. I was pretty shaggy myself back then. I bought a t-shirt from Bernie Sanders, whose early runs for state office seemed as quixotic as ... well ... Don Quixote.

And here he is, 33 years later: The first self-described "democratic socialist" elected to the U.S. Senate; the first senator to have served all his time in Congress as an independent; the first man not born in Vermont to be sent to the Senate since 1875 (according to some quick research by my compatriot Matt Crawford) .

What a long, fabulous trip it's been: the 10-vote victory to capture the Burlington mayoralty. The loss of a U.S. House seat in 1988 to Peter Smith. His defeat of Smith two years later. The transformation of Sanders, the Brooklyn-born fringe candidate in the People's Republic of Burlington into Bernie, the populist local hero capable of winning votes deep in the Northeast Kingdom where Democrats fear to tred.

It's still hard for me to picture Bernie in the hushed U.S. Senate chamber, trading "good mornings" with the likes of Trent Lott and Dick Cheney (and given the things Cheney has said to Sen. Patrick Leahy, maybe it's best for Vt. senators to avoid the veep).

A few years ago my family and I were visiting the Museum of Natural History in New York, when a woman spotted my Vermont t-shirt, rushed over and practically hugged me. "I'm from Michigan and I LOVE Vermont because you have Bernie Sanders," she said. When I said I knew Bernie, she looked at me like I'd said I regularly met with the queen. She's cheering tonight, I bet, while other Americans are shaking their heads at the wacky choices they think Vermont makes.

I'll say this: Can't wait to tune into C-Span in 2007.

-- Candace Page


9 p.m., A report from Tarrant HQ

Here's Jill Fahy with the latest from Tarrant headquarters:

The former St. Mike's basketball star borrowed from football great Vince Lombardi in a characteristically upbeat speech -- even though he was conceding his loss of the U.S. Senate race.

"Winners get knocked down more than losers but they get up far more often," he quoted Lombardi as the crowd cheered and chanted "Tarrant, Tarrant."

He said the state has spoken and congratulated Bernie Sanders and wished him the best of luck in Washington. "We were running an uphill battle."

About 150 Tarrant supporters had gathered at a South Burlington hotel and many stayed and danced after the concession.

"We still believe in Tarrant and we're not letting it get us down," said Ginger Isham of Williston, one of the dancers.,

-- Candace Page


8:40 p.m. Tarrant concedes

Reporter Jill Fahy is just back from Tarrant headquarters, where the Republican millionaire conceded the U.S. Senate race to Independent Bernie Sanders. Tarrant will go down in the books -- at least until 2008 -- as the candidate who spent $7 million -- the most per vote in a self-funded federal race in U.S. history.

-- Candace Page


8:35 p.m. Suburbs begin to report

Colchester results are in and appear to run truer to course than in some other parts of Vermont. The town generally leans Republican, but Bernie Sanders is always the exception to the rule. He takes the town by nearly 1,000 votes. But Rainville, Douglas and Dubie, all Republicans, also carry Colchester -- Rainville by about 200 votes, Douglas and Dubie by about 2,000.

This is good news for Douglas and Dubie: Colchester is one place they need to win big, and they have. Kind of balances Brattleboro, where they lost by nearly 2,000 votes.

-- Candace Page


8:30 p.m. Changes at the Statehouse

Democrats have picked up five seats in the state House so far this evening. The latest news: Democrat Joan Lenes has won a seat representing Shelburne. Democrats defeated two Republicans in Rutland City, won an open seat in Rutland City and defeated Renn Niquette in Colchester.

Also in Rutland, Democrat Bill Carris came out of the city with a wide lead in the state Senate race. The GOP now hols all three Rutland County seats. Too early to tell whether that lead will hold up.

-- Candace Page


8:20 p.m. The mood at Republican HQ

From GOP HQ in Montpelier, reporter Brent Hallenbeck says Gov. Jim Douglas isn't ready to take a gloomy view of the night. Douglas says exit polls can be misleading, and he's seen some encouraging numbers from some towns.

The early news is that Republican candidates for the U.S. House and Senate are headed for a loss. Republicans have lost two state House seats in Rutland and one in Colchester.

As Douglas entered the ballroom at the Capitol Plaza a woman greeted him saying, "I hope it isn't going to be lonely for you tonight."

Says Hallenbeck, "It's not gloomy, but you don't get the sense there's a celebration pending."

-- Candace Page


8:10, results from the Kingdom

In Derby, a generally Republican place, Bernie Sanders beats Tarrant by 300 votes, but Rainville beats Welch by a similar margin. Gov. Douglas and Lt. Gov. Dubie each win by 700 votes.

-- Candace Page


8 p.m. Cliffhanger coming?

Here are results from Bennington and it's a big Democratic night all the way down the statewide ticket:
Sanders, 3399
Tarrant, 1492

Rainville, 1800
Welch, 3071

Parker, 2541
Douglas 2437

Dunne, 2775
Dubie 2103

The popular Republican governor loses the town by about 100 votes, about what happened in 2002 but well below his total vote count in 2004, when he beat Peter Clavelle in Bennington.

Town Clerk Tim Corcoran's comment? "Jim Douglas better hope he does well in Essex and places like that."

-- Candace Page


7:45 Early word: Big night for Rutland Dems?

A friend in Rutland just called to relay a report from their local news radio station. He says they are reporting that Democrats have swept all four Rutland City seats in the state House of Representatives. If this report holds up, two Republican incumbents will be out -- Tom Depoy and David Allaire.

-- Candace Page


7:40 p.m. Don't read anything into this tidbit...

What's one of the Vermont State Police officers who guard Republican Gov. Jim Douglas doing at the Wyndham Hotel in Burlington -- Democratic HQ for the night?

Reporter Terri Hallenbeck was taken aback. It seemed unlikely that the gov was planning an appearance. Turns out the opposition candidate for governor always gets an official escort on election night. Just in case.

-- Candace Page


7:30 p.m., Return to party-line voting?

Sam Hemingway came back from interviewing at the polls today, saying he was surprised at the number of voters who told him they voted a straight party ticket, especially for the Democratic ticket. Vermont voters for 30 years have been famous ticket-splitters, sometimes voting for a self-described socialist congressman, moderate Democrats and conservative Republicans all in the same election.

Exit polling indicates this election might be different. More than 7 in 10 Vermont voters are upset about the war in Iraq, more than 7 in 10 are unhappy with the president. GOP party chairman Jim Barnett just said on Vermont Public Radio that it's possible that anger with the national government will affect voting down the ticket.

Maybe another result from Bennington bears him out: town clerk Tim Corcoran says Democrat Tom Salmon Jr. is beating Republican incumbent Randy Brock in the race for state auditor (can't get much farther down the ticket than that).

But remember, it's early yet.

-- Candace Page


7:25 Election Night, First word from Bennington

Just got a call from Bennington Town Clerk Tim Corcoran. He doesn't have complete numbers yet, but says Bernie Sanders is winning the town two-to-one.

In the U.S. House race, Peter Welch is beating Martha Rainville with about 60 percent of the vote.

And, in the governor's race, Democrat Scudder Parker is running neck and neck with Gov. Jim Douglas. (Douglas beat Peter Clavelle handily in Bennington two years ago)

Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie is losing Bennington to Democrat Matt Dunne, Corcoran said. (Dubie won Bennnington two years ago).

-- Candace Page


7:20 p.m., Election Night

No votes have been counted and Vermont's two federal races are over? That's what the exit polls -- interviews with voters as they leave their polling places -- are saying. No surprise in Bernie's case, since polls have given him a double-digit lead for months. But the early call in the Welch race must mean the exit polls show a lopsided vote in his favor. So the question becomes: Is there a Democratic tide that could mean trouble for Republican Gov. Jim Douglas and Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie?

-- Candace Page


7:15 p.m. Election Night, AP calls U.S. House race

The Associated Press is saying Democrat Peter Welch of Hartland will win Vermont's lone U.s. House seat, defeating Republican Martha Rainville.

-- Candace Page


7:00 Election Night, CNN calls race for Bernie

CNN calls the Vermont U. S. Senate race for Bernie at 7 p.m. sharp

-- Candace Page


6:45 p.m. Election Night, Looking for Trends

The political junkies among us (sign me up) aren't willing to wait until all the votes are counted. We're looking for signs, early on, to tell us which way the winds are blowing. Tonight I'll be looking for those signs especially in what are expected to be the closest statewide races -- Welch/Rainville (U.S. House) and Dubie/Dunne (lieutenant governor).

Early returns typically come from the very smallest towns with few ballots to count and the cities, where machines do the counting. Conventional wisdom says the Republicans, Rainville and Dubie, need to come out of populous, red-leaning suburbs (Colchester, Essex) and cities (Rutland City and Town, Barre Town) with more than 50 percent of the vote. They need a solid cushion to balance the big blue vote for Democrats and Progressives in Burlington and in wide swathes of Windham, Windsor and Washington counties.

Of course, every election is different. Vermont hasn't had an open U.S. House seat since 1988, too long ago to make useful comparisons of voting patterns. The last truly open statewide race was the Jim Douglas/Doug Racine battle for governor in 2002. So as early towns report, I'll be comparing the Rainville/Welch results with that 2002 election (though the presence of independent Con Hogan in the 2002 race may make it too complicated).

And the race for governor? For me, the question is -- how much better a showing does Democrat Scudder Parker make against Douglas than Peter Clavelle did in 2004? Clavelle got just 38 percent of the vote. Parker is almost certain to do better, especially since this is supposed to be a big election for the Democrats. Douglas is expected to win, but if Parker hits 45 percent or better, that's a big wake-up call for the governor.

Anybody else have a favorite way of reading the early results?

-- Candace Page


Trail tales

Heard a couple of campaign horror stories during a stop at the Williston polling place this afternoon.

Rep. Mary Peterson, a Democratic incumbent, recounted the classic tales of dogs jumping on her as she made the rounds in her district. She admitted she doesn't carry dog biscuits, which I thought was one of the requirements listed in Campaigning 101.

Michael Quaid, Republican challenger for one of Williston's two House seats, had avoided big dogs -- he said he just doesn't go down those driveways. But he was attacked by a rooster.

"I was on this person's porch and this rooster glommed ontoo my leg," Quaid said. He pointed to two puncture marks in his khakis. He half kicked half shook the bird off, made his call, and then warily exited the porch.

All four House candidates had stationed themselves at Williston Central School and assorted statewide and state senate candidates made visits. It was one of the friendliest gatherings of candidates and supporters, based on my travels on Election Day. It's sheltered, too, which makes it nice for those friendly chats that help candidates pass the hours.

-- Nancy Remsen


4:45, Election Day

Great experiment over at Chittenden County's Channel 17 Center for Media and Democracy. Take a look at their Exit Voices project, which asks Vermont voters "What would you say if there was a comments section on the ballot?"

Now there's an idea I can get behind. Wouldn't it be great to vote for a candidate, but add a note like "hated your negative ads" or "next time, vote for a balanced budget" or "you were wrong about the Iraq War" ?

Interesting that so far today most of the posts don't answer the Exit Voices question. Instead, people write about their experience at the polls -- who they voted for, what the turnout looked like. Their excitement about election day comes through: For these people, voting is more than a duty.

-- Candace Page


4 p.m, Election Day

Welcome to election day, and a new voice -- Candace Page -- on Vt. Buzz. I've covered politics in Vermont off and on since 1974 (gulp). I'll be offering occasional election tidbits here until the polls close at 7 p.m. and then results and a little analysis as we collect them at the Free Press. This is a two-way street, so join in with comments, results from your hometown or questions. For newcomers (Mom, you know who you are), just click on "comments" at the bottom of any post.
I'm just back from voting in Chittenden 3-4 (Burlington's Ward 1) where there was a steady line even at mid-afternoon. Also a steady line at the voter registration table, handling pleas from voters who were in the wrong polling place, had moved since the last election or didn't know where they were registered.
After reports of voting difficulties elsewhere in the country, it was heartening to watch Voter Registration Board member David Conrad sort out problems so people could cast their ballots. While most voters were in and out in 5 minutes, Dudley Riggs, 37, spent nearly 30 minutes consulting with Conrad and filling out forms because he'd been deleted from the city voter list though he still lives in the city. He didn't regret the time spent. "I'd be the ultimate chump if I don't vote," Riggs told me. "You can't be critical if you don't vote -- and I AM critical."
-- More and more voters are casting absentee ballots. Nearly 4,700 were requested in Burlington, more than in the 2004 presidential election. Sam Hemingway reports that a quarter of the Charlotte checklist voted absentee. Clerks were still opening ballots five hours after the polls opened. In South Burlington, 20 percent of voters turned in early ballots.
-- I don't know about you, but this is one year when I'm almost as interested in U.S. House and Senate races elsewhere as I am about the Vermont outcome. Here's a tip from the national politics beat: polls in some Indiana U.S. House districts close at 6 p.m. GOP incumbents are challenged in the 2nd, 8th and 9th districts there. Will the supposed Democratic tsunami roar -- or fade to a breeze? Indiana results could give an early indication.
-- Candace Page


Poll time

Shortly after 10:30 a.m., Republican U.S. House candidate Martha Rainville popped into the polling place at Williston Central School with her two sons, Alex and Nick, and campaign aide Courtney. Campaign dog Brutus, staff and volunteers were waiting to herald the moment.

Voting was a snap for the Rainvilles. Apparently, they all knew exactly who they were voting for. (So did her Democratic opponent, Peter Welch, who cast his ballot weeks ago by absentee.)

The snap they weren't looking for came last night when a valve went and the basement flooded. Not exactly the sort of thing you want happening any time, but especially on election eve of your congressional run. A neighbor managed to do enough of a fix so the crew could shower before heading out to the polls.

Steady stream of other voters in Williston too. One reported case of a voter being on the absentee list when he didn't think he should be. He was sent off to Superior Court.

What else are folks seeing out there at the polls?

- Terri Hallenbeck



Pool time

How about a little pop quiz on what you think will happen with Tuesday's election. Below are a series of questions, some taken from the internal Free Press pool we do each election. Just answer these questions before the close of polls Tuesday at 7 p.m., and let's see how good a prognosticator you are. If you want to add a little commentary explaining your picks, go for it. Astericks signify incumbents. Here are the questions.

1. Who will win the U.S. House race?
Martha Rainville(R) Peter Welch(D)

2. Who will win the lieutenant governor’s race?
Brian Dubie(R)* Matt Dunne(D)

3. How many Democrats win in the six-seat Chittenden Senate race? (They have 5 now)
1 2 3 4 5 6

4. Who wins the Chittenden County State’s Attorney race?
T.J. Donovan(D) John St. Francis(R)

5. Will Essex/Essex Jct. voters approve a merger of the town and village?
Yes No

6. Will South Burlington approve a charter change requiring voter approval on budgets?
Yes No

7 Will Democrats gain or lose seats in Vt. Senate? (Presently 21D/9R)
Gain Lose

8. Will Democrats gain or lose seats in Vt. House? (Presently 83D/60R/6 Prog/1 Ind)
Gain Lose

9. Who will win the Rhode Island US Senate race?
Lincoln Chafee(R)* Sheldon Whitehouse(D)

10. Who will win the Virginia US Senate race?
George Allen(R)* James Webb(D)

11. Who will win the Maryland US Senate race?
Ben Cardin(D) Michael Steele(R)

12. Who will win the Missouri US Senate race?
Claire McCaskill(D) Jim Talent(R)*

13. Who will win the Montana US Senate race?
Conrad Burns(R)* Jim Tester(D)

14. Who will win the Tennessee US Senate race?
Jim Corker(R) Harold Ford Jr. (D)

15. Who will win the New Hampshire House race in the 2nd district?
Charles Bass(R)* Paul Hodes(D)

Have fun.

-- Sam Hemingway


Great news!

Those of you who've dutifully slogged through the postings that Sam, Nancy and I have posted here the last few months are in for a treat tomorrow.

Candy Page will make her blogging debut. What you'll be getting is an incredible meld of seasoned political reporting and this modern technology thing. She won't be able to tell you who won before the votes are counted (the technology doesn't allow for that yet), but perhaps she can entertain you while you're waiting for the results.

You'd be foolish to miss it. Tune in here at vt.buzz, plus keep an eye out for rolling election results at www.burlingtonfreepress.com throughout Tuesday evening.

And don't forget to vote. Talk about foolish.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Going our own way

Took a trip to Montreal over the weekend, and it never ceases to amaze me the degree to which the Quebecois stick to their heritage and their language even as they are surrounded by oblivious Anglos.

I speak a bit of French, though not as much as I should. Of the 500 or so words our waitress said to us at dinner, I understood perhaps 25. We were managing fine, though, right up until she unleashed a string of words that apparently had something to do with the computer not working, the bill not printing and the credit-card machine not working. We had to resort to a mix of her limited English and my limited French to figure that one out, but we did it.

Where I’m going with this is that it’s an impressive feat the Quebecois have pulled off, standing up to their surroundings to keep their culture. I’m glad they did.

Vermont will have to make the same kind goal-line stand if it wants to fend off the kind of vicious political campaigns going on elsewhere. The race between Martha Rainville and Peter Welch has proven it’s possible. The temptation will be for whichever one of them loses tomorrow to wonder whether maybe they could have swung a little harder, let some people say some nastier things on their behalf. Don’t fall for it.

This is the sort of campaign that makes the ordinary voter say, "Hey, maybe there is a good reason for me to vote."

I had a taste of the other kind of campaign while visiting my in-laws in upstate New York a week ago. The TV ads were so mean-spirited, they left me thinking both candidates should be indicted and jailed immediately. It is not hard to picture hordes of voters finding something better to do Tuesday than voting for either one of them. Dental work comes to mind as more pleasant.

We haven’t fallen into that abyss yet, but once we do, it won’t be easy to climb out. Better to avoid the danger signs and walk the other way. Better to speak our own language, no matter the pressure to do otherwise.

- Terri Hallenbeck



On the job

At least on the surface, U.S. House candidates Martha Rainville and Peter Welch are working from the same playbook as they hurtle toward the end of the campaign. It goes like this:

1. Hold rally of party faithful, at which the candidates give their most rousing speeches and the crowd rises in applause with their best smiles on their faces. If all goes well, the crowd leaves energized and willing to run through a wall for the candidate.

2. Tour Vermont businesses, where a company leader takes the candidate on a tour and in the process, the candidate meets as many ordinary employees as possible for approximately 14 seconds apiece. If all goes well, they go home and tell all their friends that they met a candidate and if all goes really well, they remember that candidate's name. (By the way, the companies would like me to say here that IN NO WAY are the endorsing a candidate by taking them on a tour).

Welch toured Green Mountain Power Corp. in Colchester on Thursday. He passed from cubicle to cubicle, shook a lot of hands, learned that some people did notice him waving out at Severance Corners that morning and some people noticed his signs but not him (note to self: do I really need to be at the honk-and-wave for the honk-and-wave to work?)

With each quick interaction it was hard to tell which employees might vote for him and which would not. Everybody politely shook his hand. In between, perhaps Welch learned a couple things about electric supply and GMP’s corporate style of putting everybody from the CEO on down at an open cubicle.

The next day, Rainville was making the same kind of tour through Seventh Generation, the environmentally friendly maker of cleaning products in Burlington. She’d already toured GMP. Not nearly as many employees at Seventh Generation but an interesting tour nonetheless. Oddly enough, both companies have the same open-cubicle strategy. Seventh Generation’s new digs probably beat just about any company’s for styling, especially the “cafeteria” that is nicer than most dining rooms I've ever seen.

I don’t expect to run for Congress in my lifetime, but I have to say the idea of popping in on a company, taking a tour and seeing how they do business is more interesting than you might think. Especially if you’re not dying for a vote from every person you meet.

Is it the most valuable way for a candidate to spend his or her time in the last days of the election? Perhaps it’s the easiest way to meet a true cross-section of people and get to know Vermont business better.

Anybody got other ideas for how they can make their final mark? If a candidate came to your workplace would you be impressed?

- Terri Hallenbeck



Who's that on the line?

Mitt Romney called yesterday and left messages across Vermont urging the recipients to vote Republican. The recorded message is not specific to a state, and leaves you wondering if he dialed the wrong area code until the end, when a voice says the ad is paid for by the Vermont Republican Party.

You do have to wonder how many people got the call and said, "Who?" But perhaps the Massachusetts governor is hoping they'll remember the name in 2008, if he takes a swing at the White House.

- Terri Hallenbeck



LG upset?

Eric Davis, the Middlebury College political analyst, went out on a limb during an interview with Vermont Public Radio today, saying there's a chance that Democrat Matt Dunne will upset two-term Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie. The Dunne folks promptly put out a press statement announcing that Davis was predicting an upset, but that's not quite the case.

Here's what Davis said in response to a question from VPR's Steve Delaney asking him to comment on what might happen "at the top of the state races" on Tuesday.

Davis: "I would say if there’s going to be an upset next Tuesday night it would be in the race for Lt. Governor. This is a race that really has just taken shape in the last couple of weeks. Matt Dunne has been coming on very strong. He’s gotten some high profile endorsements in the last week or ten days from former Governor Howard Dean, and from the Burlington Free Press editorial page. There’s momentum behind the Dunne campaign."

"But at the same time, you can’t underestimate Brian Dubie. He was the surprise winner two years ago with 56% of the vote. So this one’s still too close to call but if there is going to be an upset Tuesday night, I think Dunne might just pull it off."

Not exactly a prediction, but perhaps it's a sign of how competitive this race has become. So how does the blogosphere see this race turning out?

--Sam Hemingway


Sweet and sour

It's one of the many small stories that's been running under the radar in the mucho-dinero Senate race between Republican Rich Tarrant and independent Bernie Sanders: Sanders' acceptance of a $500 campaign donation this spring from the Florida Crystals Political Action Committee and the Tarrant campaign's obsession with needling the Congressman about it.

Florida Crystals is owned by the Fanjul family and is one of the nation's largest sugar producers. Among its holdings is a plantation in the Dominican Republic that a CBC documentary says has deplorable working conditions and pays cane cutters 16 cents an hour. The Fanjuls' company has also been beneficiaries of major federal susidies over the years.

Team Tarrant thinks Sanders, who rails against corporate welfare, is a phony for taking the $500. Sanders says he's no fan of the Fanjuls but doesn't have time to research the background all 50,000 donors to his campaign.

They both have a point and, given the $12M plus these two guys have spent trying to win this race, a $500 contribution is not that much of a story. Besides, a check with the Federal Election Commission shows that the Fanjul's PAC has given to Republicans like Pres. George W. Bush and Rep. Mark Foley and Democrats like Sens. Joe Lieberman and Diane Feinstein. Heck, even our Senator Jim Jeffords once got a $1,000 from Florida Crystals.

Undeterred, the Tarrant folks established a "Hypocricy Watch" earlier this year and have been counting out the days, now weeks, that Sanders has "refused" to return the money.

The Senate campaign may be winding down, but Team Tarrant is cranking up its attacks on Sanders' sugar money.

Reporters, including yours truly, have over the past week received recycled press releases on the subject, plus items like a pound of sugar, a miniature flag of the Dominican Republic, a full edition of a 1998 Time Magazine containing an article on the Fanjuls. some Sugar Babies candy packets on Halloween and, today, a framed photo of a smiling Alfonzo Fanjul and, I guess, his wife.

Sugar ain't so sweet after all, it seems.

-- Sam Hemingway



Mail bag

Yes, the election ads are practically popping out of the TV, but what about the stack of campaign fliers filling up the mailbox? Five in today's mail alone, including one for a state House candidate I'm not eligible to vote for.

Today's Vermont Republican Party offering appears to be banking on the notion that former Gov. Howard Dean has lost some luster in his home state. The premise of the flier is that if we don't vote Republican, our values, our security, our wallets are in peril. It says:

"Don't let the liberals win. If you don't vote, liberals like Hillary Clinton,
Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, and Ted Kennedy will take over Congress. They'll
raise taxes, erode our values and make it easier for terrorists to attack

That paragraph sits next to photos of the four. Dean's photo depicts him in the midst of his infamous Iowa scream.

At least some Vermont Democrats seem to be banking on the idea that Dean still has positive sway here. Scudder Parker and Matt Dunne, to name a couple, have been happily out campaigning with Dean. We haven't, however, seen Peter Welch or Bernie Sanders standing side-by-side with Dean.

Is it a case of the underdogs (Parker and Dunne) being willing to take their chances with Dean, while Welch and Sanders don't want to take the risk? Probably nobody polls Dean's favorability numbers in his own state anymore, but what's your guess? Liability or life line?

- Terri Hallenbeck


In the final lap

It's the final lap of the race for the U.S. Senate and independent Bernie Sanders said he's holding rallies almost daily while Republican Rich Tarrant said he's become the master of the roadside wave.

But there's more.

Today, Tarrant began airing a two-minute ad -- that's realllllly long, folks -- that features him explaining his health care plan.

Meanwhile Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, drove to Sanders' headquarters for a news conference where the pair suggested the benefits that Vermonters and Americans would see if Democrats, plus Sanders, gained a majority of the seats in the Senate. Sanders stressed that nobody could predict which party would win control of the U.S. Senate -- and he certainly wasn't going to -- but the signs (read that polls) were hopeful that one-party (read that Republican) government in Washington, D.C., was about to end.

Tarrant held a news conference immediately following the Sanders/Leahy event to criticize their focus on partisan politics.

"It doesn't make any difference who's in charge," Tarrant said, referring to political parties. "If you get the right people there, they will do the right thing."

The question voters will answer on Tuesday is who they consider to be the right people.

-- Nancy Remsen

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