By Anne Galloway, VTDigger.org
The voter turnout for the 2014 primary election was one of the lowest, if not the lowest turnout in history, according to Eric Davis, a retired political science professor from Middlebury College.
Just under 40,000 Vermonters went to the polls, or about 8 percent of registered voters.
Davis says of that total, 40 percent chose the Republican ballot; 60 percent voted Democratic. Typically 70 percent of the primary voters are Democratic. The fact that a larger than usual percentage of Republicans turned out is a sign that GOP voters were motivated.
There were three write-in campaigns for candidates. Two of the candidates hoped to get support from another party. Progressive Dean Corren, the candidate for lieutenant governor, did much better than expected, Davis said. It’s possible that Corren got 5,000 to 6,000 write-ins (officials speculated). A whopping one in four Democrats put Corren on the ballot. The Burlington Progressive is now very well positioned to get a formal endorsement from the Democratic Party, and support from members of the party.
Dan Feliciano, a Libertarian gubernatorial write-in candidate who was seeking votes on the Republican ballot, started his write-in campaign two weeks ago and managed to carve away 15 percent of the vote from Scott Milne, the GOP-endorsed candidate. Emily Peyton, an independent, and Steve Berry, neither of whom actively campaigned, got 5 percent to 6 percent of the vote. Altogether the three candidates siphoned off about 25 percent of the voters who would have normally rallied around the official candidate, Davis said.
The GOP is split between traditional Republicans and more ideological conservatives, Davis said. Because Milne has appealed largely to the traditionalists, Feliciano has a shot at picking up the votes of the activists in the party in the general election. Davis predicts that Feliciano could get 10 percent of the Republican vote, and Milne will be hard-pressed to get 30 percent.
Shumlin did not “do as well as an incumbent should have,” Davis said. H. Brooke Paige managed to get 10 percent of the vote even though he is an unknown candidate with “interesting views.”
The governor is vulnerable politically because he does not have a personal following like Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, Davis said.
If former Republican state senator Randy Brock had decided to run against Shumlin, Davis says we could have seen a competitive gubernatorial race this election year.
“(Randy) is an experienced candidate who doesn’t need a learning curve,” Davis said. “He’d have the whole party behind him — the traditionalists and the ideologues.”