by Tom Brown
Parking, plastic, and politics drew a huge number of Montpelier voters to the polls, especially for a midterm election that featured virtually no competitive statewide races. An impressive 73.5 percent of “active voters” participated in the general election, strongly approving all four ballot measures and backing incumbents, with the exception of Gov. Phil Scott.
City Clerk John Odum also reported that 37 percent of those who voted did so before election day and about 125 new voters took advantage of same-day registration. The turnout, which dwarfed the last midterm election in 2014 in which 41.5 percent participated, was due mainly to two factors, Odum said. There are roughly 6,200 active voters on the Montpelier checklist and 4,560 cast ballots, Odum said.
“The parking garage was really getting people out,” he said, “and the other reason was as a referendum on the federal administration. A lot of frustration was being unleashed by voting.”
The $10.5 million city parking garage bond was the closest of the four ballot items, passing 2,549–1,877. A $16.7 million bond to upgrade the city’s wastewater treatment plant was easily approved, as were separate charter change proposals that would allow non-U.S. citizens to vote on municipal ballot items and give the city council the authority to regulate non-reusable plastics.
Otherwise, Montpelier voters enthusiastically chose incumbent Democrats or Progressives in races for state offices. The one race in which city voters did not choose the winner was for governor, where Democratic challenger Christine Hallquist outpolled Republican incumbent Gov. Phil Scott, 2,578–1,596.
Odum said with more options for early voting available residents are beginning to see voting as a range of days rather than a single-day affair.
“More people are starting to think about it as an election season, I think, with election Day as the deadline,” Odum said.
Elsewhere in Washington County, Democrats added three House seats by ousting one Republican and two independent incumbents. In the Senate race, Progressive/Democrat Andrew Perchlik filled the seat left vacant by the retirement of Democratic Sen. Francis Brooks. Perchlik finished third, more than 5,000 votes ahead of a trio
of Republicans and one independent. Perchlik joins longtime Washington County Sens. Ann Cummings and Anthony Pollina in the 30-member body, where Democrats and Progressives will outnumber Republicans 24–6. With a few seats still to be decided, Democrats and Progressives will likely emerge with a veto-proof majority of at least 100 members in the 2019–2020 biennium.
In area House races:
Washington-4 (Montpelier): Democrats Warren Kitzmiller and Mary Hooper easily won reelection.
Washington-1 (Berlin, Northfield): Republicans hung onto the seat vacated by Rep. Patti Lewis as incumbent Rep. Anne Donahue was joined by fellow Republican and political newcomer Kenneth Goslant, who edged Democrat Denise MacMartin by about 100 votes.
Washington-2 (Barre Town): Republicans Rob LaClair and Francis “Topper” McFaun, a Republican/Democrat held onto their seats. Democrat Guy Isabelle finished third.
Washington-3 (Barre City): Democrat Peter Anthony upset incumbent independent Paul Poirier in the Barre district. Anthony joins fellow Democrat Tommy Walz in the House. Poirier finished fourth, trailing Republican challenger John Steinman by roughly 125 votes.
Washington-5 (East Montpelier, Middlesex): Incumbent Democrat Kimberly Jessup was unopposed.
Washington-6 (Calais, Marshfield, Plainfield): Incumbent Democrat Janet Ancel was unopposed.
Washington 7 (Duxbury, Fayston, Moretown, Waitsfield, Warren): Incumbent Rep. Ed Read, an independent, was knocked off by Democrat Kari Dolan, who joins incumbent Democrat Maxine Grad in Montpelier.
Washington-Chittenden (Bolton, Buels Gore, Huntington, Waterbury): Incumbent Reps. Tom Stevens and Theresa Wood ran unopposed.
Lamoille-Washington (Elmore, Morristown, Woodbury, Worcester): Democrat Avram Patt broke through to oust incumbent Republican Gary Nolan by about 200 votes. Incumbent Democrat David Yacovone won reelection as the top vote-getter in the race.