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Seven on 7: St. Albans City to Middlebury

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From the reporter's notebook:

Note to self: The next time I decide to drive the length of Vermont, making frequent stops along the way to talk to voters and poll workers, it'd be best to start EARLY! I should have kicked off my journey at 7 AM. Now, I'll be lucky to make it to Rutland City before the polls close. C'est la vie. The best road trips are the organic variety...

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2:30 PM, St. Albans City: Justice of the Peace Jim Pelkey reported about 575 voters thus far of the city's 4300 or so registered voters have cast ballots. He predicted a higher-than-usual turnout, which is consistent with everything I've heard along the way. "I think the pundits were wrong," he said. "The campaigns are getting their people out."

On Route 7 through Milton, I had trouble finding the nearest polling place — I saw plenty of signs that read "VOTE TODAY" though no arrows telling you where  — so I flagged down a couple of young guys at a gas station and asked them where I could find the nearest polling place. They hadn't a clue, and based on their breath, I suspect they'd spent the better part of the morning doing bong hits for breakfast. So, I motored south, bypassed Burlington and Winooski and picked up Shelburne Road. No way I'd make the whole state otherwise...

3:40 PM, Shelburne: Town constable Tom Bessette told me it's been a steady flow of voters since 7 AM., 1422 total so far, including about 700 absentee voters. "That's damn good for a primary," he said.

Bessette, a big bear of a guy with meaty palms the size of racketbll paddles, pulled me aside. "You know what I predict?" he whispered. "A recount. This is gonna be close."

God help us.

Outside, I finally managed to nab a voter who was willing to share his views on the auditor's race, and who voted in the Democratic primary. "Hoffer," he said. "Smart guy."

I asked whether last year's stories about Flanagan factored into his decision. He just smiled and gave me an equivocating look.

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4:30, Middlebury: Got stuck in construction traffic trying to get to the polling place. So, I swung into a parking spot and walked. En route, I ran into Harold Giard, who's running for reelection to the Senate as a write-in. He's been on the street corner since 7 AM and was redder than a lobster. I mentioned the auditor's race, my purported raison d'etre today, and ask if people are talking about it.

"Oh, yeah," said Giard. "People are definitely talking about it."

Several blocks away at city hall, Town Clerk Ann Webster told me that with more than 1100 votes in, she was already over 25 percent turnout.

Outside, longtime politico Charlie Kireker of Middlebury was waving a Matt Dunne sign at the standstill traffic jam. Kireker claimed he has a running bet with Middlebury professor emeritus Eric Davis that turnout will surpass 50,000 voters. 

He mentioned an email Bill McKibben sent out to Dunne supporters, in which McKibben noted the historic nature of this vote, in that it's the first time in decades that none of the powers-that-be has told voters who's supposed to win. 

"It's wonderfully liberating, don't you think?" Kireker said. 

Definitely. 

Onward and southward...

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