McMullen wins GOP Senate primary; upset in GOP attorney general’s race

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(Host) Jack McMullen has cruised to an easy victory in his race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. The Burlington businessman acknowledges he has a far more difficult challenge to unseat five-term incumbent Patrick Leahy.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) McMullen tried once before to run against Leahy. But he lost in the 1998 GOP primary to retired Tunbridge dairy farmer Fred Tuttle. This time McMullen easily defeated his two primary opponents, college professor Ben Mitchell of Putney and retired engineer Peter Moss of Fairfax.

McMullen criticizes Leahy for being too partisan and he says the senator has not done enough to keep jobs in Vermont. Leahy is now the clear favorite, but McMullen says he hopes to gain ground in debates and by campaigning frequently around the state.

(McMullen) “Yes, we’ve got a long way to go and it’s an uphill battle but I think as we focus now on the two major party candidates, I’ll have a chance to express my views. The senator’s agreed that he will be debating. I don’t know how many debates he’ll ultimately find to his liking but I think the odds favor me.”

(Dillon) Leahy has raised $2.5 million for the race, far more than the $175,000 that McMullen has collected. The national Republican Party would love to unseat Leahy, who has challenged many of President Bush’s judicial nominees. McMullen says he’s needs to make the race competitive before he’ll get financial help from the GOP.

(McMullen) “I’ve gotten organizational support. I’ve gotten opposition research help. Outright funding will depend on closing the gap further.”

(Dillon) Elsewhere in the Republican primary, an East Montpelier man scored a surprise upset in the attorney general’s race. Dennis Carver, who is not a lawyer, defeated two other candidates, including one strongly favored by the party. With 80 percent of the vote tabulated, Carver had 4,820 votes, compared to 3,550 for Marianne Kennedy and 1,719 for Karen Kerin. The GOP had urged Kennedy to enter the race. Carver will challenge Democrat William Sorrell in the November general election.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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