(Host) Republican Brian Dubie won this week’s race for lieutenant governor with 41% of the vote. His Democratic and Progressive challengers split most of the remaining votes. Vermont Democrats are wondering if Dubie’s election is a sign of difficult days ahead. They say if Democrats and Progressives continue to split votes, Republicans will continue to win.
VPR’s Steve Zind reports:
(Zind) When Progressive lieutenant governor candidate Anthony Pollina appeared at the Republican victory celebration Tuesday to congratulate Brian Dubie, he received a warm welcome. But the Democrats aren’t so happy with Pollina. They feel he’s the reason Peter Shumlin lost the race to Dubie.
Mark Michaud is executive director of the Democratic Party in Vermont. He says a Republican victory in a race pitting Democrats against Progressives is a as a problem for both parties:
(Michaud) “One of the conclusions that can be reached by the lieutenant governor’s race is that if Democrats and Progressives keep splitting the vote among them, the only thing that is going to be accomplished is that we’re going to elect more Republicans in this state.”
(Zind) Chris Pearson, who ran the Pollina campaign, says he doesn’t see any problem with the situation. Pearson says it’s not keeping the Progressives from gaining strength:
(Pearson) “We put out a strong message, a quarter of the voters chose it. That doesn’t surprise me and I don’t think that means we’ve got problems coming down the road.”
(Zind) Before the election, Democrats appealed to Progressives to vote for Shumlin to avoid a Dubie victory. They reasoned that because Shumlin led Pollina in the polls he had a better chance of winning.
On Election Day, Pollina’s support held, with no indication that voters heeded the Democrat’s warning. Pearson says that’s because voters recognize that the parties differ on many key issues.
(Pearson) “Sometimes you hear that they’re the same because we’re both pro-choice and we both support civil unions. Frankly, Jim Douglas supports those things. Are Anthony and Jim Douglas the same? Nobody’s trying to make that argument.”
(Zind) Mark Michaud says after this election, he thinks voters will consider the possible outcome of a race with the three major party candidates before they cast their ballots.
(Michaud) “Sometimes it takes an election where the voters, after all the votes have been cast and counted, have to stand back and say, ‘Well hold on a second. I didn’t want that guy to get elected!'”
(Zind) Neither Pearson nor Michaud rule out the parties working together to avoid pitting strong candidates against each other, but they say it’s unlikely. It’s more reasonable, they say for Vermont to go to an instant runoff system that’s better equipped to deal with multiple major party candidates.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.