- Zachary Stephens
- State Sen. Becca Balint after winning Tuesday
Becca Balint is officially one step closer to becoming the first woman elected to Congress in Vermont’s history, defeating Lt. Gov. Molly Gray in the Democratic primary for U.S. House.
Gray conceded around 8:40 p.m. and Balint, Vermont's Senate president pro tempore, addressed her supporters at an election night party in Brattleboro shortly after.
With 95 percent of districts reporting results, Balint had 59 percent of the vote compared to 37 percent for Gray. Balint's decisive victory marked the conclusion of one of the most closely watched races this political season as candidates lined up to compete for a rare opening in the state's congressional delegation. Balint, a former middle school teacher from Brattleboro, would become the first openly gay person to represent Vermont in D.C. if she prevails in the general election in November.
At Hula in Burlington, Gray addressed a much more somber crowd. She huddled with staffers, some of whom were crying, before saying, "Let's go do this" and taking the podium.
- Luke Awtry
- Molly Gray
Balint, Gray and Meyers were the three remaining candidates in the once-crowded field of Democratic rivals for the seat formerly held by U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), who announced in November that he would run to replace retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Another candidate, state Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale (D-Chittenden), dropped out of the race in late May and endorsed Balint — in part, Ram Hinsdale told reporters at the time, to forestall the possibility of a split vote between her and Balint.
She talked about how, growing up gay, she couldn't have imagined this triumph for herself: "This is a culmination of everything I was chasing when I was young."
Balint's wife, Elizabeth Wohl, and their two children, Abe and Sarah, stood behind her as she gave her victory speech.
"It's finally our time!" she told the crowd of supporters. "It's finally our time!"
- File: James Buck
- U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and state Sen. Becca Balint
Related In the August 9 Primary, Democratic Candidates Compete for the Jackpot: Vermont's Lone U.S. House Seat
Among Gray's most prominent backers were two former Vermont governors, Madeleine Kunin and Howard Dean, and Marcelle Leahy, wife of Patrick Leahy. (The retiring senator never explicitly endorsed Gray, who interned in his office while she was an undergraduate at the University of Vermont, though he cast an early ballot for her and donated $5,000 to her campaign through his political action committee.)
Balint's supporters included many of her Statehouse colleagues and, most notably, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who joined her for a statewide tour earlier this month and sent an emailed statement on Tuesday congratulating her on her win. In July, Balint received another major endorsement from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), who had supported Gray's 2020 bid for lieutenant governor.
The pair of high-profile endorsements from Warren and Sanders reinforced Balint's appeal to progressive-leaning voters and lent her campaign an extra boost of momentum in the critical stretch leading up to the primary.
Balint also benefitted from about $1.6 million in spending on mailers and digital, TV and radio ads from Equality PAC, LGBTQ Victory Fund Federal PAC, the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC and the Working Families Party National PAC.
Gray and her surrogates repeatedly decried these expenditures as unwelcome interference in Vermont's elections. Balint countered that she has no control over spending by PACs, which are prohibited by law from coordinating with campaigns.
Balint echoed Sanders on issues of wealth inequality during her victory speech on Tuesday.
"I will never, as long as I live, accept the unconscionable wealth gap in this country ... Hunger is a policy choice. Homelessness is a policy choice," Balint said. "We can make different choices. The work is not easy, but it can be joyful."
In late July, polls by the University of New Hampshire and the progressive think tank Data For Progress showed Balint leading Gray by a sizable margin — 42 points and 32 points, respectively. While the polls' small sample sizes may have overstated Balint's dominance, they helped shore up the perception that her campaign was gaining momentum, while Gray's seemed to be flagging.
Campaign finance reports told a similar story: Balint received roughly 3,300 donations between July 1 and July 20, compared to Gray's 270.
Liam Madden, who identifies as an independent, won the GOP nomination, according to a race call from the Associated Press. With 95 percent of the districts reporting, Madden had about 36 percent of the vote, compared to 27 percent for Ericka Bundy Redic and 23 percent for Anya Tynio.
“I will decline the nomination if I win the primary,” Madden, a Marine veteran and anti-war leader, told Seven Days in an email in May. “Regardless of outcome, I will be an independent in the general election.”
He indicated he was running in the GOP primary purely for strategic reasons.
“I am clearly not a Republican,” he wrote. “But, I can see that candidates in primaries get more attention, or at least earlier attention.”
On his Liam Madden for Congress Facebook page, the candidate has engaged in frank dialogue about the fact that he’s an independent running in the Republican primary.
“Let’s free ourselves from the 2 party system,” a graphic on his page reads.
“I am giving [voters] another choice, and if they know exactly where I stand on what is important to them, then that's all that should matter,” he told one person in a public exchange about his status as an independent.
In the U.S. Senate race to replace outgoing Sen. Leahy, current Rep. Welch cruised with some 85 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary. He soundly defeated challengers Isaac Evans-Frantz and Niki Thran.
Malloy handily beat former U.S. attorney for Vermont Christina Nolan, and Myers Mermel, a retired real estate executive from Manchester.
Malloy received 41 percent of the vote to Nolan’s 35 percent and Mermel’s 17 percent. Nolan tried to appeal to more moderate Republican, hitching her wagon to the style of Gov. Scott, who endorsed her in the race. But Malloy won easily in a primary race with just about 30,000 votes cast.
Rachel Hellman and Matthew Roy contributed reporting.