Saturday, October 07, 2006

Vermont Governor Race

Race of the Day

October 7, 2006
31 Days Until Election Day

Vermont Governor

Status: Republican Incumbent
2004 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Likely Republican

In a state that is viewed by many as ultra-liberal, Vermont’s 2006 political landscape looks fairly schizophrenic. The state seems poised to easily elect a Republican as Governor while sending a self-confirmed socialist to the U.S. Senate, while the other high profile race, is one for the U.S. House, which looks like a highly competitive contest between the two major parties. The Green Mountain State will see a plethora of ticket splitting.

In the race for Governor, Republican incumbent Jim Douglas is a heavy favorite to win a third two-year term. Along with New Hampshire, Vermont is the only state in the union to elect its Governor every two years. Douglas was first elected in 2002, in what was considered a modest upset and while New Hampshire’s freshman Republican Governor went down to defeat two years later, Vermont followed the usual trend of wanting to at least give their chief executive a full four years to try to implement an agenda.

Now, Douglas is running for what would be a second term in most states and polls show that the moderate and mild-mannered Republican is well thought of in his state. In 2005, a U.S. Senate seat in the state became open for this election year and many national Republicans very much wanted the popular Douglas to jump into that race. While he would have stood a very good chance of winning that election, perhaps the only Republican who could have, the Governorship of Vermont would have then been tougher for Republicans to hold. So Douglas chose the less risky political path and decided to run again for his current job.

A poll on the race, from American Research Group, shows Douglas with a robust lead of 59-32 over his Democrat opponent Scudder Parker, a former State Senator and Chair of the state party. Another poll from Rasmussen Reports shows a smaller lead for Douglas, but still one that has the Governor over 50 percent and with a double-digit lead. While the race looks to be easily in Douglas’s control, a small population state like Vermont, which is not exactly fertile territory for the GOP, means that he probably cannot be considered completely safe. Still though, it would take a pretty dramatic Democrat wave, far greater than what realists anticipate, for Douglas to actually lose this year.

It is worth noting that Vermont is one of two states to have a quirky election law that requires a candidate to secure a majority of the vote to be directly elected. If a candidate is not able to achieve that benchmark, the election is then decided in the state legislature. Back when the office was open in 2002, most expected the eventual winner to only receive a plurality of the vote on election night. The Democrat candidate was considered the frontrunner, but votes for the candidate of the Progressive Party were expected to come out of his totals. Confident of a first place finish, Democrat Doug Racine made the case that the then Republican controlled legislature should abide by the judgment of the voters and officially confirm the first place finisher as the Governor-Elect. However, Racine’s tactic backfired as Douglas actually finished with a narrow plurality victory, and the Democrat had to live up to his pledge and concede the race to succeed Howard Dean in Montpelier to a Republican.

The risk of another election in which the victor did not receive a majority was never really in play in 2004 and is not expected to be this year either as Douglas is expected to surpass 50 percent. Vermont is a state that allows numerous third party and independent candidates on the ballot, but those who are running for Governor this year seem more likely to harm the Democrat if they are to have any impact at all. Those candidates would include marijuana legalization activist Cris Ericson, who might very well now take the opportunity to tout her candidacy on

Douglas campaign link:

2006 Governor races predicted thus far: 13 D, 21 R
Post-election total of Governors predicted thus far: 21 D, 27 R