Vermont Gov. Phil Scott Elected to Second Term | Off Message

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott Elected to Second Term


  • Sophie MacMillan
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Updated at 2:30 a.m. on November 7

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott cruised to reelection Tuesday night, beating Democratic challenger Christine Hallquist, who conceded the race around 10:20 p.m.

With all but four districts reporting, Scott had clinched 55 percent of the vote to Hallquist’s 40 percent. That’s larger than his margin of victory in 2016, when he beat Democrat Sue Minter by nine percentage points.

Throughout the campaign, the first-term governor touted his efforts to hold the line on taxes and fees and repeated his pledge to make Vermont more affordable.

After Hallquist conceded, Scott addressed fellow Republicans at the DoubleTree by Hilton in South Burlington. His mother, who had traveled from Florida, introduced him, and Scott’s wife, Diana, and two daughters also joined him onstage. This marks the fourth election that he's been the only Vermont Republican to win a statewide office.

“By electing a governor of one party and a legislature by another, the message Vermonters have sent to us tonight is clear: Work together,” Scott said. “They are saying we need to listen to one another and prove to the rest of the nation that in Vermont we can and will rise above partisan politics.”

Scott praised his Democratic opponent for running a positive campaign. “While across the nation, other races in other states turned negative and uncivil, in Vermont, we rose above it.”

Christine Hallquist hugs a supporter. - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Christine Hallquist hugs a supporter.
Hallquist, a political newcomer who resigned as CEO of the Vermont Electric Coop in February to run for governor, hit on the same theme when she addressed Democrats at the Hilton Burlington.

“Phil is going to be very committed to the future of Vermont,” she said. “I’m proud of how we worked with each other. We’ve sparred well, and I think Vermont is a beacon of hope: We’ve showed the rest of the country what good democracy looks like.”

During the campaign, Hallquist did criticize Scott for lacking vision and for clashing with the Democrat-controlled legislature.

Scott, who vetoed 11 bills in 2018, including two budget proposals, frustrated Democratic leaders with his intransigence, particularly around taxes. Though he had developed a reputation for collaborating across party lines during his 16 years as a state senator and lieutenant governor, he’s so far failed to bring that cooperative spirit to the governor’s office, Democrats charge.

A notable exception occurred this spring, when Scott worked with legislative leaders to quickly pass gun reforms in the wake of an averted school shooting in Fair Haven. That enraged some members of the governor’s base, who felt betrayed by his sudden change in stance on gun control.

Scott has insisted that any friction he’s had with lawmakers has merely been a product of a divided government.

The dynamics might be different during his second term, however. Democrats appear to have picked up enough seats in the House to override a veto, significantly reducing Scott’s leverage. 
Unofficial results as of 1:20 a.m. on November 7. - ANDREA SUOZZO
  • Andrea Suozzo
  • Unofficial results as of 1:20 a.m. on November 7.
During his speech Tuesday, he recommitted to his three-point platform — to make Vermont more affordable, grow the economy and protect the most vulnerable — and called on lawmakers to help him reverse the state’s demographic trends. “We need more kids in our schools, more workers for our businesses, more proud first-time homeowners right here in Vermont.”

But he also stressed the importance of civility and collaboration. “If we’re going to accomplish any of this, we must continue to rise above the partisanship and politics of hate and division. Our time to make a difference for those who have elected us is far too short. We can’t allow ourselves to fall victim to pettiness, political games and angry rhetoric.”

Hallquist was the first openly transgender major party nominee for governor of an American state, and her historic candidacy attracted national media attention. But the Hyde Park Democrat made a point of focusing more on policy than gender identity. Her agenda hinged on a plan to provide universal broadband coverage through electric utilities.
Unlike Scott, Hallquist wanted to immediately establish a tax-and-regulate system for marijuana, and she supported a $15 minimum wage and a mandatory paid family leave program, both of which Scott vetoed.

Hallquist shied away from identifying funding sources for several of her proposals, and the Republican Governors Association painted her as a spendthrift Democrat. While the RGA spent about $700,000 in Vermont, much of it on Scott's behalf, Hallquist failed to garner equivalent financial support from national groups.

The race in general didn’t attract much cash. Hallquist had planned to raise $2 million, but as of November 2, had brought in just over $500,000. Scott, who raised nearly $1.5 million in 2016, brought in less than $700,000.