With a 190-vote lead and all precincts reporting, Peter Shumlin is declaring victory in the five-way Democrat primary for governor. But rivals Doug Racine and Deb Markowitz aren't ready to call it quits.
At a Democratic unity rally at Burlington's Union Station today, Racine and Markowitz stressed that vote tallies are unofficial and the race is still wide open. Neither would comment about whether they would seek a recount, which is allowed for candidates who finish within 2 percent of the winner.
The five Democratic candidates appeared on stage together before a throng of clapping supporters, but there was no singing of Kumbaya. They all raised hands together, but afterward Markowitz and Racine didn't sound ready to hand the election to Shumlin. None spoke to the crowd from the podium.
Afterward, Shumlin told reporters, "It appears that we've won. We believe we've won and obviously we're going to move forward on the basis that we're going to take on [Republican candidate] Brian [Dubie] and we're gonna get the job done."
Shumlin said he'd be "delighted" to take on Dubie in a debate scheduled for tomorrow night in South Burlington, but vtdigger.com is reporting that neither Shumlin nor Racine will appear at the debate, throwing the first post-primary forum into doubt.
Meanwhile, Shumlin said he'll continue campaigning and fund-raising on the assumption that he won the primary.
"We're going to roll up our sleeves and go forward on the basis that we have a campaign to run," Shumlin said. "We're going to continue doing everything we need to win."
According to Politico, the official tally is as follows: Shumlin 18,183 (25.1%), Racine 17,993 (24.8%), Markowitz 17,499 (24.1%), Matt Dunne 15,034 (20.7%) and Susan Bartlett 3773 (5.2%).
Speaking to reporters, Markowitz was cagey about whether she'd seek a recount, saying "Let's see what the final numbers are but at this point, my focus is really on Dubie."
But she declined to concede that she had lost the race, or say whether she sees the race now as a two-person contest or three-person race.
"Look, all the votes have to counted and then we have to focus on Brian Dubie," she said. "I feel great about the race we've run and my focus right now is making sure our party, whoever the nominee is, can beat Brian Dubie."
Markowitz, who as secretary of state is Vermont's chief elections official, also explained the mechanics of how the vote gets certified. Within 24 hours, her office gets results. The day after the election, all town clerks overnight official returns to her office, and she beings to tabulate them. The votes are then certified legally next Tuesday, August 31. The secretary's office will have unofficial results earlier than that — but she couldn't say how early.
Racine wasn't ready to concede either, noting discrepancies in vote counts the Associated Press reported and actual vote tallies from the towns. In Williston, for instance, Racine said the AP reported Matt Dunne had received 1 vote, when in fact he had received 201.
"There needs to an officially certified number to declare a victor," Racine said. "When I noted a discrepancy of 200 votes in one candidate's numbers, this suggests it needs to be checked and double-checked so that we have an official tally of who wins. We don't simply rely on the numbers sent into a news service to say that's the official tally. That's not the way it works."
Asked whether he considers it a two-way race or three-way race, Racine said, "Deb Markowitz — I think the last numbers were 500 or 600 — I don't know that there could be mistakes of that size but that's why you do an official tally and I think she probably wants to wait for that to be done as well."
"And it's not a race anymore," Racine added. "The race ended at 7 o'clock last night. This is about getting an accurate count of the right numbers so we can determine who has won this nomination."
Will Racine seek a recount?
"There would be a lot of considerations," he hedged. "The question is how close are the numbers? Is there a concern about possible errors? What are the political implications of that? Yeah, we want to get this campaign underway really quickly."
Meanwhile, Matt Dunne, the Google executive and former state lawmaker from Hartland, conceded that he had lost the race but said he's already been encouraged to run again the future. He also brushed aside the suggestion made by some Democrats that he should have run for lieutenant governor, and would have won that race handily.
"Absolutely not," Dunne said. "I was going to share a vision with the state of Vermont that was about delivering an economy that works for all Vermonters and that's something that can really only be executed from the governor's office."