Thursday was the deadline for candidates desiring to be on Vermont’s August primary ballot to file their nominating petitions. The deadline is particularly important because a candidate must be on the primary ballot in order to appear on the general election ballot in November.
The filings for the August primary have determined the makeup of the fall elections in Vermont. There are five statewide elected officers in the state. Three — Treasurer Beth Pearce, Secretary of State Jim Condos, and Attorney General William Sorrell, all Democrats — filed and have no challengers.
Governor Peter Shumlin also submitted his paperwork to be on the ballot. Republican businessman Scott Milne filed at the last minute as the Republican candidate for governor. During an interview earlier in the day on WDEV radio, he said he would challenge Shumlin, but realized it was a long shot. Middlebury College Professor Emeritus of Political Science Eric Davis. “My sense is Scott Milne felt that he had to do this for the benefit of the Republican Party. Because if Scott Milne had not run the Republicans were left with Emily Peyton from Windham County. She is someone who would not have the support of the Republican organization. And even if Scott Milne has not a very high chance of defeating Peter Shumlin, I believe he concluded that it was important that the other side be presented in debates. That someone make the arguments about Shumlin’s vulnerabilities just so that the governor did not have a nearly free ride to re-election.”
Seven Days political columnist Paul Heintz adds that Milne stepped in after several other candidates backed out of the gubernatorial challenge. “The Vermont Republican party for months has been trying to come up with a credible candidate to run against Governor Shumlin. They tried to talk a state representative named Heidi Scheuermann into running, a retired Wall Street executive named Bruce Lisman, and Randy Brock who was the 2012 nominee. He’s a former state auditor and state senator. But in the end all three of those potential candidates did not decide to run and Scott Milne, who is a little known owner of a travel agency, stepped up at the very last minute to challenge Governor Shumlin.”
Eric Davis says the GOP struggle to entice gubernatorial candidates reflects not only reticence to challenge an entrenched incumbent, but disarray within the state party. “One of the things that Republicans are increasingly lacking is people who can be called on to be candidates for statewide offices a few cycles down the road. Running an unsuccessful campaign for one of the lower statewide offices is a good way of getting publicity, getting your name known and getting talked about for future election cycles. And the Republicans don’t have anybody in that category.”
The race to watch, Paul Heinz feels, may be the lieutenant governor’s. The only Republican in statewide office, incumbent Phil Scott, will face off against Progressive Dean Corren after Democrat John Bauer dropped out when he failed to qualify for public financing. “So now it’s going to be a one-on-one race between a moderate Republican and a fairly liberal Progressive. Now, that actually could end up being somewhat competitive. Particularly because Dean Corren is from Burlington, and that area has quite a number of the votes that you need to win.”
No incumbent governor has lost a reelection bid in Vermont since 1962.
In neighboring New Hampshire, incumbent Governor Maggie Hassan has officially entered the race for a second term, filing her candidacy papers with the Secretary of State on Thursday.