Monday, September 19, 2016

Race of the Day- Vermont Governor

49 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Open
2012 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Tossup (D)

State-level politics in the Green Mountain State sure can be odd. Elections are held every two years. Candidates must win a majority of the vote or the election is thrown to the state legislature. Minor party left-wing candidates can either play spoiler or actively cooperate with Democrats on equal footing. Candidates can also seek more than one office at a time. In 2014, an election most everyone thought was safe for the Democrat incumbent turned out to be surprisingly close.

That year, Governor Peter Shumlin was unexpectedly held to 46 percent of the vote while fairly unknown Republican businessman Scott Milne captured 45 percent in the overwhelmingly liberal state. The voters took it out on Shumlin that there were problems with his stewardship of the implementation of Obamacare in the state. The election was thrown in the state legislature and while Democrats held a strong majority and tradition held the person who received the most votes would get selected, Milne attempted unsuccessfully to lobby for the job.

The whole episode must have been embarrassing enough for Shumlin to decide he would not attempt to seek a fourth two-year term in 2016. Milne was preparing to challenge the incumbent again but eventually changed course and is now the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate. The 2012 GOP Gubernatorial nominee, former State Auditor Randy Brock, an African-American, is running this year for Lt. Governor, so the GOP has a fairly strong ticket for these offices, led by the candidate who emerged victorious in the Gubernatorial primary for the open seat. In August, Lt. Governor Phil Scott defeated former Wall Street executive Bruce Lisman by a margin of roughly 60-40. Lisman tried to run as an outsider, but Vermont Republicans preferred Scott's experience in elective office and his record of three times winning statewide office in the very blue state.

Democrats had a more competitive primary, in order to replace Shumlin. State House Speaker Shap Smith looked like an early frontrunner but dropped out of the face after his wife was diagnosed with cancer. He later competed for Lt. Governor and lost the primary to a candidate with more left-wing backing. One gadfly candidate qualified for the ballot, but the party went out of the way to exclude him from official events. Two candidates would eventually hit double digits and Sue Minter, who resigned as state Transportation Secretary to run for Governor defeated former State Senator Matt Dunne 51-38. Dunne had also lost to Shumlin in the 2010 Gubernatorial primary. I cannot say for certain, but it appears to me that Minter ran as slightly less liberal than Dunne, but might have benefited from being a woman, in a state that has not elected one as Governor since 1988. That former Governor backed Minter in the primary.

This appears to be an interesting general election and some believe you can almost throw the party labels out the window as voters are willing to vote on the person, at least when it comes to Governor. An eccentric former Boston Red Sox pitcher nicknamed "Spaceman" is on the ballot as the nominee of the socialist party that once spawned Bernie Sanders.

In addition to being Lt. Governor, Scott is a former race car driver, and leans moderate on social issues. Despite his Republican label, he has managed to be fairly popular during his time in office. The political appeal of Minter before a general electorate is a bit more of an unknown ,but even though voters are willing to act independently, and with a lack of polling thus far, she probably has to have a slight edge, during a Presidential year, simply for being a Democrat in Vermont. Even if she fails to capture a majority of the vote, she would be more likely to win in the legislature.

Scott campaign link:

Governor races predicted thus far:
8 D (1 Safe, 1 Likely, 3 Leans, 3 Tossup)
2 R (1, Safe,1 Likely)
Overall predicted thus far: 19 D, 29 R