More on primary write-ins

A small addition to my earlier post about today’s Board of Canvassers certification of the primary results. 

In the Democratic race for Lieutenant Governor, Progressive Dean Corren took the nomination with 3,874 votes, or 60% of the total. Republican incumbent Phil Scott received 1,895 write-in votes on the Democratic line, or 40%*. And in the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, Libertarian Dan Feliciano managed to get 2,093 write-in votes in losing to Scott Milne. 

*Correction: Scott received 29.6% of the Democratic write-in vote. My mistake. I should never try to do math while blindfolded. 

Earning nearly 4,000 write-in votes is an impressive accomplishment for a, frankly, little-known candidate. Scott’s a well-established and well-liked figure, while Corren is a former State Rep who hasn’t been a candidate for any office since 1998. 

This is Corren’s second notable achievement in the campaign. The first, and more significant, was qualifying for public campaign financing. He must have a solid organization, and he must have some measure of appeal. We have yet to see whether a focused enthusiasm will translate into broad support from the public at large. 

At first glance, his 60-40 margin of victory over Scott, who wasn’t even campaigning for the Democratic nomination, doesn’t look too strong. If the primary electorate was representative of the general public, I’d say Corren is in serious trouble. But the primary voters — the 9% of all registered voters who bothered to show up — is a self-selected group of people with a strong interest in politics. Strong enough to cast a ballot in a relatively inconsequential primary. Scott’s 40% does not mean he can count on 40% of the Democratic votes in November; far from it. An indeterminate number of his votes were from Republicans taking advantage of (a) Vermont’s open primary, and (b) the complete lack of anything worth voting for on the Republican ballot. For many Republicans, the most constructive thing they could have done last Tuesday was to get Phil Scott on the Democratic ballot. That would have ensured his re-election. 

All that said, Corren remains a longshot. Phil Scott is well-known and well-liked, and the argument by people like Ed Adrian (that we need at least one Republican in a statewide office, and that Scott serves a valuable function in that role) is likely to have some resonance. Especially since Scott projects such a friendly, reasonable persona. And the Shumlin Administration’s continued bungling of Vermont Health Connect won’t exactly help Corren, who’s committed to single-payer health care. 

As for Feliciano, he took 93% of the Republican write-in votes for Governor. Or, about 13% of the total vote. It wasn’t enough to challenge Scott Milne, who had 72% of the total vote. A couple thousand write-in votes is a respectable number, but it’s not enough to indicate a real split among Republicans. But that could change; if Milne continues to stumble on the campaign trail and in fundraising, and it becomes clear that he poses no threat to Shumlin, then conservative voters will have nothing to lose by casting a protest vote for Feliciano. And if Feliciano finishes a solid third, he’ll push Milne into laughable-loser territory, and that would encourage the true believers to carry on their fight for control of the VTGOP. 

One housekeeping note. This was the first election in which town clerks were legally required to report their results on election night. Some failed to do so; 31 precincts out of 275. Secretary of State Jim Condos said, “We’ll reach out to towns that didn’t report on Tuesday night, and find out why they didn’t.” He speculated that there might have been confusion with a new reporting system, or ignorance of the new legal requirement. 

Condos is hoping for complete returns on time in November, but he doesn’t have a stick to go with his carrot. When the Legislature adopted the election-night requirement, it did not enact any penalties for failure to comply. 

 

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