Local News

Scott’s gubernatorial win attributed to his popularity, focus on economic issues

By Mark Johnson, Jasper Craven and Anne Galloway, VTDigger.org
Republican Phil Scott won the race for Vermont governor Tuesday night, defeating Democrat Sue Minter by a wide margin.
He cruised to victory despite the state’s left-leaning electorate and a controversial candidate at the top of his party’s ticket.
Scott won the state’s more rural areas and dominated in populous Chittenden County. The popular three-term lieutenant governor and race car driver even won Minter’s hometown of Waterbury and several other towns in the Mad River Valley.
While Minter had the most votes in Chittenden County, Scott won Williston, Colchester, Essex and Milton.
Liberty Union candidate Bill “Spaceman” Lee, a former Red Sox pitcher, earned nearly 3 percent of the vote after a series of wacky debate performances filled with proverbs and wisecracks.
Scott’s win continues the Vermont tradition stretching back to the early 1960s in which the office has alternated between the two major parties. He will succeed Gov. Peter Shumlin, a three-term Democrat who opted against seeking a fourth term.
Scott’s win buoyed an otherwise dismal night for Vermont Republicans, who gathered at the Sheraton in South Burlington. The Democrats won every other statewide race and picked up enough seats in the Vermont House so that Scott may not be able to have a veto sustained in the lower chamber. The Republicans went into Tuesday’s election with 53 seats in the 150-member House.
At about 11:30 p.m., an overjoyed Scott, his wife, daughters and mother by his side, said he still couldn’t quite believe a working class kid from Barre was about to be the next governor. Scott said Minter called him to graciously concede shortly before she took the stage at 11 p.m. to thank her supporters.
Scott said he would focus on the economy and fight to make Vermont more affordable, but he made sure to reach out to the other side politically.
“In my administration, there will be room for everybody that has a good idea that will make the economy stronger and the state more affordable,” Scott said, telling the crowd he would create an administration that was “by your side.”
“It’s not easy to make me look good, and they did a great job of doing it,” Scott said of his campaign team, half joking. “They didn’t let the uphill challenge” of running in a Democratic state deter them, and “when the other side went negative, we stayed positive.”
Supporters credited Scott’s win to his popularity, his focus on economic issues and a desire to have a Republican in an otherwise completely blue state electorally. In addition to Democratic victories for the other statewide offices, Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch won easily.
Scott’s “crossover appeal”
Rep. Patti Komline, of Dorset, said Scott won crossover votes from Democrats who voted for Hillary Clinton for president because they were familiar with Scott’s “core” and knew he had rejected GOP nominee Donald Trump.
“People say he’s a great guy,” said Komline, who is leaving office. “What they really mean is he’s a good humble man. Vermont’s ready for a good humble man. He’s not running on ego. He’s stepping up.”
“Vermont gets it. It’s actually small enough that you can get to know a candidate,” she said. The results, she said, also showed “Bernie Sanders is not a kingmaker.” Sanders campaigned with Minter for the last several weeks, giving her campaign an apparent boost.
“Very impressive,” said former Gov. Jim Douglas, who said he thought the race would be closer. Scott, he said, has “tremendous crossover appeal, he’s down-to-earth, and he works hard.”
Douglas said Scott wasn’t hurt by Trump because Scott spoke out against him early and clearly.
The former governor and others at the event said the high-profile endorsements Minter received from President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were a “turnoff to a lot of Vermonters.” They didn’t sound genuine, Douglas said.
Republican primary candidate Bruce Lisman, who lost to Scott in August, made a brief and early appearance at the Republican Party event. He said: “I think Phil ran a good campaign. I think he focused on the right issues and had a good message.”

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