W2W4

Planning on a very short or nice long evening, sitting in front of my desktop hitting REFRESH on the Vermont vote count. Here are the things I’ll be watching for, in roughly descending order:

The #1 thing is whether the Democrats and Progressives can add to their supermajorities. They’ve already got a comfortable margin in the Senate, but they barely clear the bar in the House and could use a few more seats. More on that below; for now let’s go to the top of the ballot.

Scott/Siegel. Everybody expects Gov. Phil Scott will win a fourth term. Democrat Brenda Siegel has run a strong campaign, but it’s been underfunded and she’s had to climb a very tall mountain. The polls say Scott will win a majority of the Democratic voters which, need I repeat, means that those voters are not serious about advancing their party’s agenda.

I still give Siegel a puncher’s chance. If she does pull up short, I’ll be very interested in the margin of victory for Scott. How close can Siegel make it? How much of a dent has she put in Scott’s Teflon? Has she created a template for a future candidate with deeper pockets?

Otherwise, the statewide races are not going to be close. It’s hard to see anything but a Democratic sweep of U.S. Senate, Congress, lieutenant governor, attorney general, auditor, secretary of state and treasurer. Bragging rights go to the Democratic candidate with the biggest win. I suspect that will be Mike Pieciak.

Turnout. Early voting has been very strong. If Election Day is proportionately busy, this will be a big day for the Democrats. They’ll get momentum from Article 22 and strong support for Congressional candidates Peter Welch and Becca Balint. For the Republicans there’s little to get excited about unless you’re one of the deep-red True Believers.

Article 22’s wining margin. There is no way the Reproductive Rights Amendment is losing. I’m looking for a lopsided victory, at least as large as Kansas’ 59%. If we can’t do better than that, it’ll be disappointing.

The Vermont House. There’s more chance of a dramatic result here than in the Senate. Right now the Dems and Progs have a combined 100 seats, exactly a supermajority with no margin for error. I think they have an excellent chance to add seats.

After a quick run through the list of races, I see 11 contests most likely to turn. (I probably missed one or two.) Seven of those seats are currently held by Republicans and three by Democrats. One district, Orleans-4, features two incumbents: Republican Vicky Strong and Democrat Katherine Sims. The Dems obviously have more opportunity for pickups. Here are the races I’ll be following closely.

Bennington-Rutland. Nominal Democrat Linda Joy Sullivan is stepping down after rampaging her way out of the majority caucus. Between Democrat Mike Rice and Republican Bill Gaiotti, I’d guess the latter has an edge. But even if Republicans win the seat, the Dems won’t have really lost much because Sullivan was such a pain in the behind.

Caledonia-Essex. A two-seat district centered on St. Johnsbury. The two incumbents, Republican Scott Beck and Democrat Scott Campbell, are both on the ballot. Republican Frank Empsall seems to be the strongest challenger; he could knock off Campbell. This has been Republican territory in the past.

Next are three districts in Franklin County, the last bastion of old-fashioned Republicanism. The county GOP doesn’t hamstring itself by nominating extremists. I look forward to learning whether its strategy is more successful than other, far more Trumpy county committees like, say, Addison, Bennington, Chittenden, Lamoille, and Windham.

Franklin-3. Incumbent Democrat Mike McCarthy faces Republican Joe Luneau. The Republicans always think McCarthy is vulnerable. It’s one of their best chances for a pickup, but that’s kind of like being the tallest mountain in Nebraska.

Franklin-6. Republican incumbent James Gregoire has had an easy time of it, but he faces a tough challenger in Democrat Brenda Churchill. Plus, he’s gotten himself into a bit of hot water by posing in the nude for “a Boston-based photographer who specializes in male boudoir and erotic photography,” according to the County Courier, the normally conservative paper that uncovered the story. Gregoire dug the hole deeper by responding to the Courier with “If somebody thinks it’s a scandal, they can kiss my ass. Frikin’ Taylor Small (D/P-Winooski) does drag shows, and nobody gives a f**k about that.”

Considering that his opponent is a trans woman like Small, that wasn’t the most sensitive of responses.

Franklin-7. Republican Felisha Leffler isn’t seeking re-election. There’s a three-way race including Prog/Dem Cindy Weed, Republican Allen Demar, and Independent Suzi Hall-Casavant. Weed has been in and out of office, usually winning in high-turnout years and losing when the voters don’t show up.

Lamoille-1. Represented by outgoing Republican Heidi Scheuermann. Seems like a good pickup prospect for the Dems since the GOP didn’t find a candidate. It’s Dem Scott Weathers against Independent Jed Lipsky.

Orange-1. Rematch of 2020’s contest, which saw Republican Smantha Lefebvre defeat Democrat Carl Demrow. The new district boundaries are a bit more Dem-friendly, so this seems like a good prospect for a pickup.

Orleans-4. This is the Redistricting Bowl, featuring Republican incumbent Vicky Strong against Democratic incumbent Katherine Sims. Strong is an outspoken conservative Evangelical; we’ll see if the new district views her as favorably as the old.

Rutland-2. Another rematch. Democrat Dave Potter will try to reverse the 2020 result, which saw Republican Art Peterson oust him from the House.

Rutland-3. Democrat Mary Droege faces Republican Jarrod Sammis, notorious entry in my “stealth conservative” series for a YouTube channel filled with pro-gun and militia-adjacent videos. Sammis scrubbed the channel after I wrote about it. Let’s hope the voters don’t reward that kind of behavior.

Rutland-Bennington. Yet another rematch, this one pitting incumbent Republican Salley Achey against Democrat Robin Chesnut-Tangerman. Achey won this race two years ago by a scant 32 votes.

My offhand projection, to give it a far too professional-sounding name, gives the Dems a net gain of four seats. At best it could be six or more. At worst, maybe two. Either way, the supermajority gains strength.

Vermont Senate. I see four big contests where a seat could switch sides. Two are held by Republicans and two by Democrats. Unless something truly exceptional happens, the Dems should hold a supermajority in the Senate.

Chittenden-North. This new district seems to lean Republican. Current Rep. Leland Morgan is running against Democrat Irene Wrenner. Morgan hails from Chittenden-North’s population center of Milton, and Wrenner is from the smaller Essex end of the district. I expect Morgan to win, but this isn’t really a Republican pickup; it essentially takes the place of what’s now a Republican seat in the Northeast Kingdom.

Orange. Longtime incumbent Democrat Mark MacDonald would seem to have a big edge, but (a) he suffered a mild stroke that has limited his ability to campaign and perhaps raised health questions, and (b) Republican John Klar has raised a lot of money and made a lot of hay fighting the culture wars. This is one of the GOP’s two best chances to pick up a seat.

Franklin. Currently two Republican seats. Randy Brock is running again; Corey Parent is not. The Democrats have been predicting a breakthrough in Franklin for years; I’ll believe it when it happens.

— Rutland. Currently two Republicans and one Democrat, but Dem Cheryl Hooker isn’t running for re-election and she’s the only Dem who’s managed to win Rutland County in recent years. This is probably the GOP’s best shot at gaining ground.

The ol’ cracked crystal ball says the Republicans will pick up one seat. That would still leave the Dem/Prog caucus with 22 seats, still a decent margin for error.

If my projections are true, the new session could be one of the most contentious in recent memory. We face tighter budgets as the federal Covid relief money dries up. If he wins re-election, Scott will confront a Legislature better positioned to override his vetoes. But I don’t expect him to suddenly become more flexible. He’s already shattered the all-time record for gubernatorial vetoes, and I don’t think slightly larger Dem/Prog caucuses would make him suddenly change course.

If the past is any indication, it might be a couple days until we learn how the partisan makeup of the House and Senate will change. There are always a few races that are too close to call on election night. I expect a whole bunch of races to be called as soon as the polls close, and then a long wait for the stragglers to be decided.

2 thoughts on “W2W4

  1. deebat

    “I think his stance on women’s issues is divergent from other Republicans,” said a woman in Hinesburg who chose Scott over Siegel, according to Digger.

    Umm, why not vote for an actual WOMAN, then??

    Reply
    1. P.

      Deebat– Because logic and critical thinking have been stripped from school curriculums all over the country. It has been an ongoing effort by certain right wing organizations for decades. I have the 8 by 10 glossy photos with the circles and the arrows to prove it.

      Reply

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