Weeks After the Primary, Vermont's General Election Ballot Is Still Being Tweaked | Off Message

Weeks After the Primary, Vermont's General Election Ballot Is Still Being Tweaked


Two weeks after the August 11 primary, the list of candidates who will be on Vermont's general election ballot is still being finalized.

High-profile office seekers, such as Republican Gov. Phil Scott and his challenger, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a Progressive/Democrat, aren't budging from the lines that they clinched on the ballot.

Candidates are still being added, though, including those who won long-shot write-in campaigns or replaced last-minute dropouts.

  • Courtesy Image
  • Meg Hansen
Republican Meg Hansen is one candidate who will appear on the general election ballot for a race other than the one she originally entered. Hansen came in second for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. Soon afterward, the Manchester Center resident said, she was recruited to run for state Senate. 

Republicans in Bennington County didn’t mount a strong primary field, due in part to the dominance of the Democrats in the district, Hansen said. She noted that Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington) has represented the district since 1993, and  Sen. Brian Campion (D-Bennington) since 2014.

No Republicans ran on the primary ballot in the race, but voters wrote in dozens of names. The top two were retired Manchester police chief Michael Hall, who sought the nomination, and incumbent Democrat Campion, who decidedly did not.

When Campion informed state elections officials he would not accept the Republican nomination — a decision based on ideological grounds — he created an opportunity for the local Republican committee to nominate a replacement to run alongside Hall. Their pick: Hansen. Of five GOP lieutenant gubernatorial candidates, she had placed second to Scott Milne, finishing with 29 percent of the vote.

“People are really looking for fresh, bold new leadership,” Hansen said.

The lineup in other races, too, has changed on the general election ballot.

Shoreham berry farmer Barbara Wilson won the Democratic primary for the Addison-Rutland district in the House of Representatives but reconsidered her run after she was diagnosed with a resurgence of Lyme disease.

"I'm  heartbroken that I had to drop out," Wilson said. "It was the hardest decision I've ever had to make."

Party officials nominated librarian Ruth Bernstein to run in her place, though Wilson said it will be a challenge for Bernstein to mount a campaign with early voting beginning in just a few weeks. 

Similarly, Perkinsville resident Daniel Boyer won the Democratic nomination in the Windsor-2 district but pulled out for personal reasons, said Spencer Dole, House campaign director for the Vermont Democratic Party. Officials replaced him with Ascutney resident John Arrison.

When a candidate drops out this late in the game, it can be challenging to find a replacement as required within a one-week window, Dole said.

Jennifer Scott, a former president of the College of St. Joseph, won the Democratic nomination to represent Rutland in the House. But when she dropped out because of a work conflict, Democrats couldn’t quickly find anyone to take the baton.

“Seven days isn’t much time to find another candidate to take that jump,” Dole said.

Some candidates switched party lines after the primaries, while others sidestepped them altogether.

Former representative Susan Hatch Davis lost the Democratic nomination to represent Orange County in the Senate. But she's running as a Progressive for a House seat in the general election after securing the line in the primary.

And former Democratic gubernatorial candidate and clean-water advocate James Ehlers filed to run as an independent for Senate representing Chittenden County. He's hedging his bet by also filing as an independent to run as a representative in Winooski. In the latter race, he'll compete for one of two seats against two Democrats: incumbent Hal Colston and newcomer Taylor Small. No Republicans qualified.

Another noteworthy ballot shuffle was perennial candidate Cris Ericson's decision to withdraw as a candidate for governor and U.S. representative. The Chester resident signed up for those and five other statewide races as an independent, but she also secured — due to limited or no competition — the Progressive nomination for five statewide offices: lieutenant governor, treasurer, secretary of state, attorney general and auditor. 

Candidates are allowed to run with multiple party affiliations, as does, for example, Sen. Chris Pearson (P/D-Chittenden). This year, some Republicans are joining the dual-party designation bandwagon, with Franklin County senators Randy Brock and Corey Parent both running as R/Ds.

But state law doesn’t allow candidates to appear with different party affiliations listed on the same ballot. They have to be consistent.

So Ericson had to choose between running as an independent or as a Progressive. She chose the latter and thus was forced to give up her gubernatorial and congressional aspirations.

The deadline for parties to replace candidates who have dropped out is Friday, August 28. But even then the list won't be complete.

More potential change is afoot: The recount for the Chittenden County Senate district got under way Wednesday morning in Burlington. Just 45 votes separate Sen. Pearson from first-time candidate June Heston of Richmond. The winner may not be known until next week.

Correction, August 28, 20202: A previous version of this story misstated the office sought in the general election by Susan Hatch Davis.

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