Vermont Still Hasn’t Picked a Governor

Burlington Free Press: “A provision in the state’s founding document says that if no candidate for governor, lieutenant governor or treasurer receives an outright majority of the vote — 50 percent plus one ballot — lawmakers decide the outcome by secret ballot two months later when they convene in January.”

“In a seven-candidate field on Nov. 4, Gov. Peter Shumlin got 46.4 percent of the vote, compared with 45.1 for Republican Scott Milne… But against long odds, Milne is taking his fight to a Legislature dominated by Shumlin’s fellow Democrats. He is urging lawmakers to vote as their constituents did in each district, which could result in a 90-90 tie when secret ballots cast by the 150 House members and 30 senators are counted.”

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  • CaptainCommonsense

    What a bunch of nonsense.

  • mfa123

    Yeah, good luck with that.

  • growe

    As we saw in 2000, the GOP of course never finds flimsy grounds to seize power…. right?
    Obviously the intent of the state constitution was, if no candidate can reach 50% on their own, then the state legislature – elected by the same voters – picks a candidate they want most to work with….

    • terjeanderson

      Milne has no chance of winning in the legislature — it remains overwhelmingly Democratic and, especially in a secret ballot, very few Democratic members will break ranks just because their district did (I’m only aware of two who have announced they will).

      The state constitution dates back to a very different time – when political parties where less powerful and there were often multi-candidate races involving independent candidates or loose coalitions. The idea was to avoid an unpopular candidate getting elected with a plurality of 30% or so, and allowing the legislature to exercise judgement in such a multi-contender election.

      The tradition for many years has been for the candidate with the most votes to be confirmed by the legislature (before the election even Scott Milne said that it what should happen if no one won a majority).

      This may finally provide incentive for a serious discussion for revamping this provision of that state constitution (very difficult to amend) and moving to a run-off election (if no candidate is over 40%), a transferable ballot/IRV scheme (unlikely – it was the rule in Burlington for a few years and was unpopular, so probably wouldn’t sell statewide), or simply making it the way it is in most states where the candidate with the most votes wins.

  • streamline

    I voted for Shumlin and even made calls for him and the other DEMs during the run up to the election last year. But I can’t say I support him anymore. He promised to find a way (which he never detailed during the campaign) to fund the single payer option for health care, something he’s pushed for over his 4 years in office. As soon as the election was over, he admitted that there wasn’t enough money to fund the program and that he was going to abandon it. I hate feeling like a chump for having believed him. I don’t like Milne very much, but I won’t be disappointed if Shumlin somehow doesn’t get voted in by the legislature on Thursday. It’s not likely that he’ll be denied a 3rd term, but he sure as hell didn’t earn it.

    • vtbikerider

      I agree– I didn’t vote for him but for a third party candidate. I hope the Progressives take this as a shot to run a candidate next time in two years. I’d love to see Pollina run but I know he’s run before and not done well. I lost faith in Shumlin after that land deal with his neighbor. Even though it was “legal” it left a bad taste in my mouth and just seemed, well, slimy.

  • Cedric

    Shumlin likely gets the vote of course but unless he can turn things around in the next year or so…his chances of being re-elected again in 2016 aren’t that good. He was seen as a rising star and even had some mentioning him as a potential contender for President someday. I personally saw him as a potential candidate for US Senate when Leahy likely hangs it up in 2016.

    • streamline

      US Rep. Peter Welch will have the inside track now on that US Senate seat. While he won by a 9% margin (53%-44%) in ’06, he has never received less than 60% of the vote since ’08. He is well liked and there is really no other DEM, PROG, or IND who can match him right now in a state-wide race (VT has one At-Large seat in the House), except for Leahy himself and our other US Senator, Bernie Sanders. Lt. Governor Phil Scott (R) would make a formidable opponent, but it is more likely that he will run for Governor in ’16.

      • TimWolfe

        Just as you say, I think Welch always had the inside track to the Senate. My private hope had been that Leahy retires in 2016 and Shumlin foolishly challenges Welch for the promotion (because I was sure he would lose and we could be rid of him). Now it looks like getting rid of Shumlin won’t be as much a challenge as just getting a decent replacement.

        I didn’t vote for him in the 5-way 2010 primary — I’d sized him up as a sleazy say-anything rich-guy when he ran for LG back in 2002 — and I’ve been appalled that we’ve been saddled for at least 6 years with a guy who won less than a quarter of the primary vote that year.

        Racine lagged him by only 197 votes, yet we have no runoff system of any kind. For a state dominated now by a single party, that is pretty outrageous, and I really would like it to change.

        • vtbikerider

          There are a few inside the gov’t that would consider running. Minter, Markowitz, and Martha Rainville come to mind. Don’t count out Zuckerman as well or for that matter Shap Smith.

          • terjeanderson

            Martha Rainville?

            She doesn’t even live in VT anymore. She divorced her Vermont husband, and moved to Virginia where she works as a consultant/lobbyiist (and is married to a former Democratic member of Congress from Pennsylvania – Paul McHale).

            She simply isn’t on anyone’s radar screen as a potential candidate.

          • vtbikerider

            D’oh! I simply have to keep up with my gossip. I kinda went through the list of those who have run before and her name came up. Must be the cold today–it’s -10 out now without windchill.

      • terjeanderson

        I don’t know that Peter is going to end up in the Senate.

        Leahy has already said he plans to run again in 2016. While he could change his mind, if he doesn’t that would mean the seat wouldn’t come open until 2022 — when Welch would be 75 years old. Even being 69 in 2016 might be a little old to start a Senate career – and would likely make him a one or two term Senator if he were to run and win then.

        He’s happy in the House, where he has carved out a decent role for himself in just a few terms. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him opt to stay there – especially if the seat doesn’t open until 2022, but even if Leahy retires in 2016 or Sanders retires in 2018.

        Phil Scott understands that Vermont is very unlikely to elect a Republican to a federal position (especially in a Presidential year). He won’t run for Senate or Congress — but he is definitely anxious to run for Governor.

        Vermont is now the only state other than Mississippi that has never sent a woman to the House/Senate — an open Senate and/or House seat in the next few years might provide a decent opportunity to finally correct that. And there will definitely be a generational change in Vermont politics soon – will be interesting to watch a new generation of potential officials jockey through the next couple of legislative sessions to try to position themselves for a large number of future openings.

        • vtbikerider

          “will be interesting to watch a new generation of potential officials jockey through the next couple of legislative sessions to try to position themselves for a large number of future openings.”

          Never thought of it that way especially with Welch’s age taken into consideration. So, a run down of VT politics
          Governor in 2016–Shumlin’s hurt, Milne is hurting himself– possible opening? Did hear rumors about Sue Minter wanting to run though.
          LT Gov– Scott’s a nice guy, good name recognition– wants to be gov?
          Congress– Peter’s happy where he is, right?
          Sander’s seat– how old is Bernie anyways?
          Leahy’s seat– other than health, he’s good, right?

          • terjeanderson

            Governor in 2016 — Shumlin’s hurt, but he does have 2 years to recover. (I really don’t like him, but I suspect that he might be able to recover – especially since a Presidential year is a much better time to be running in VT than a GOP wave year ).

            Milne’s surprisingly strong showing could have set himself up for 2016, but his post election antics have continued to show him not ready for prime time. He’ll want to run again, but party officials will probably search for a stronger candidate (maybe encouraging him to step aside for Scott and instead run for Lt Gov..)

            Scott really wants to be Governor, and he’ll definitely be looking at running if Shumlin still seems weak. (But he’d rather wait until 2018 and not have to face Presidential year turnout.)

            If Shumlin steps aside, lots of potential candidates on the Democratic side. Minter has definitely gotten onto the radar screen. Shap Smith, Deb Markowitz, Matt Dunne, Tim Ashe, Jeb Spaulding, Miro Weinberger, TJ Donovan are just a few of the names that will likely get floated.

            And if the office opens up, Peter Welch MIGHT be interested in coming back and becoming Governor. (He’s run before.) He could probably pretty much clear the Democratic field and be an overwhelming favorite.

            Kesha Ram wants to run for higher office – she might go for Lt Gov if Phil Scott moves on. And plenty of other ambitious younger Dems will probably look at the race. Same with a House race — there are basically a couple of generations of ambitious Democratic politicians who haven’t had many good openings to run for.

            And there are a few Progs who might run statewide too… depends on the openings.

            Bernie is 73 now… he’ll be 77 when his seat comes up in 2018.

            Leahy is currently 74, he’ll be 76 when his next election comes around. AFAIK his health is good – Marcelle (his wife) has had problems in the past but seems fine these days – her health would probably be the only thing that might convince him not to run again. Assuming he does run, he’s probably unbeatable – especially since 2016 is a Presidential year.

            AG Sorrell will probably retire soon (Donovan would still be interested, as would others). Treasurer and Auditor seem like they won’t turn over for several more years….

    • terjeanderson

      “even had some mentioning him as a potential contender for President someday…”

      Not sure than anyone other than Peter Shumlin ever did much mentioning of him as a Presidential candidate. Certainly in Vermont no one took that talk seriously, and simply dismissed it as an example of Peter’s overblown ego. (Which, to be clear, is a very different reaction than people had to Dean or Sanders being discussed in the same terms…)

  • terjeanderson

    No surprise, Shumlin was just elected by the legislature by a 110-69 vote.

    It was a secret ballot, so we don’t know how individual legislators voted – but the numbers track pretty closely with partisan affiliation.