Progressives’ Governor Candidate Could Be Displaced By Write-In

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Three days after the primary election, it’s still not clear who won the Progressive Party’s nomination for governor.

The outcome is important because a write-in campaign for the Progressive nomination has challenged Governor Peter Shumlin on energy issues.

Secretary of State Jim Condos says everyone needs to be patient until the election is officially certified on Tuesday. And Condos points out that his own website does not even contain the full, unofficial results.

"It is only as good as the information that is downloaded on to it by each individual clerk around the state. It is also only 77 percent of the towns that are reporting at this point in time on the web site," he says "All the results that are out there, whether it is our results, or any media results, are unofficial. And the official results will be out Tuesday morning after the 10 o’clock meeting."

The Secretary of State site shows Annette Smith trailing Progressive candidate Martha Abbott by about 40 votes out of around 600 cast. Smith supporters say it’s much closer than the results reported by the state. Stephanie Kaplan, a lawyer in Calais, who has represented neighbors fighting large-scale wind projects, says she thinks Smith is running ahead of Abbot.

"For instance in Craftsbury there were 33 votes, write-in votes for Annette for governor, and that’s not recorded there," Kaplan says. "And there are other towns, I think Newark, isn’t recorded there and there are eight (write-in votes) there."

Martha Abbott, the Progressive candidate, says the tally is trending her way.

"It looks like there are some reasonable number of fewer write-ins than there are votes for me on the ballot," she says. "So presumably it’s looking good, but I don’t want to leap to any conclusions until I really see some more definitive results."

Abbott says if she does win, she’ll withdraw from the race because Governor Peter Shumlin supports two top Progressive priorities: single payer health care and closing Vermont Yankee.

She says the party has discussed for about a year whether to run a candidate in the primary.

"And it would have been good if the people who wanted to stay in the race would have participated in that discussion," she says.

But Kaplan asks what’s the point of a Progressive Party if it ends up supporting mainstream Democrats?

"I mean it’s still quite astounding to us – to a lot of people – that the Progressives are just running somebody to keep anybody else from winning," she says.

Kaplan and other Smith supporters say they looked at the number of votes cast in similar Progressive primaries and decided this race was winnable. They believe if Smith wins, she’ll be an articulate foil for Shumlin on issues such as large-scale wind.

Smith herself says she’s not a candidate. But she says she would welcome the chance to debate the governor.

"That’s the whole purpose of this – to give a voice on issues that are not going to be handled adequately," she says..

Both Smith and Kaplan point to apparent inaccuracies in the vote totals. They say they’ve heard from people who wrote in Smith’s name, yet the results on the Secretary of State’s web site don’t reflect their votes.

Which brings up another question in this odd election: What’s the process for a write-in candidate to request a recount?

Condos says he’ll have to research that, but adds that any challenge to the results would have to wait until after Tuesday.

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