Candidates divided, if election goes to Legislature

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If no candidate in the gubernatorial race wins 50% of the vote, the Legislature will elect the next governor in January.   Should lawmakers vote for the candidate who receives the most votes?

The four major party candidates for governor have different points of view.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The Vermont Constitution gives lawmakers the power to elect a governor when no candidate receives a majority of votes. 

With four major party candidates running this year, it’s possible that this could happen.

During the VPR Governor’s debate, the candidates were asked, if the election goes to the Legislature, would they support the person who received the most votes.

Republican incumbent governor Jim Douglas says the answer is yes:

(Douglas) "I think Vermonters would fully expect the General Assembly to approve the individual who gets the greatest number of votes that’s historically what’s been done except in unusual circumstances and I think they except it to happen again."

But Independent candidate Anthony Pollina said he thinks lawmakers should have the final say:

(Pollina) "The decision as to what happens if race goes to the Legislature I would leave up to the legislators."

Democrat Gaye Symington charged that Douglas has changed his mind on this issue since the 2002 election.  She also appeared to support legislative discretion because she didn’t pledge to back the candidate who gets the most votes:

(Symington) "I need to focus on what I can control and let go of what I can’t- the one thing I know is that in January I will not be a member of the Legislature so I am focused on getting 50% plus one of votes."

Liberty Union candidate Peter Diamondstone supports the idea of allowing lawmakers to elect a governor but he thinks their vote should be conducted by a public roll call – under current rules – the election is done by secret ballot:

(Diamondstone) "They’re voting in a representative capacity this isn’t like walking into the voting booth in your home in a representative capacity they still vote in private so you never know who they voted for. You should make them vote in public."

The last time this situation happened was in 2002, when Republican Jim Douglas received 45% of the vote, Democrat Doug Racine got a little over 42% and Independent Con Hogan had almost 10%.

Lawmakers then elected Douglas to his first term in office.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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