Shumlin Maintains Small Lead Over Dubie

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(Host) One of the more extraordinary political campaigns in recent Vermont history is not over, yet.

Peter Shumlin maintains a small lead of only a few thousand votes over Brian Dubie in the race for governor.

And there are still about two dozen towns that still haven’t reported their vote totals.

As VPR’s John Dillon reports, the uncertainty hung over what both candidates hoped would be celebration parties.

(Crowd) "thank you, thank-you!"

(Dillon) The ballroom in the Burlington hotel was still crowded well after midnight when Democrat Peter Shumlin took the stage. He said the long night of waiting was about to stretch past dawn.

(Shumlin) "Thank you so much. I cannot tell you how grateful we are for your enthusiasm, your hard work and your dedication to the state of Vermont. There is going to be no winner in the governor’s race tonight. It’s been a long wait. You guys have been extraordinarily patient. Some things are worth waiting for."

(Dillon) The governor’s race was a cliffhanger all evening and the mood at the Democrats’ party swung from elation as the totals showed Shumlin edging ahead of Dubie to apprehension when the numbers swung the other way.

Down the road in Montpelier, where Republicans waited with similar tension, Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie was cautious as he thanked supporters.

(Dubie) "We’re not here to declare an outcome. But the outcome I can say with certainty to be a candidate and to have served you as lieutenant governor has been a privilege. We look forward to possibly serving you as a governor. But right now I just want to express our gratitude on behalf of from Penny and I and our entire family."

(Dillon) The close vote came at the end of a hard-fought campaign for Vermont’s first open governor’s seat in eight years.

Shumlin squeaked through a crowded, five-person primary. A two-and-a-half week long recount delayed his entry into the general election campaign.

The delay made for a short, intense race between Shumlin and Dubie, a contest marked by a barrage of campaign ads, many of them negative.

Strong differences emerged on the issues as the candidates met in more than a dozen debates and forums. Shumlin advocated shutting down the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant when its license expires in 2012. Dubie supported the re-licensing as long as the plant was shown to be safe. On the state budget, Dubie favored a spending cap while Shumlin said the state could eventually save money through corrections reform and a single payer health system.

And social issues also divided the candidates. In debates, Shumlin focused repeatedly on Dubie’s anti-abortion stance. Dubie said abortion should not be an issue in the race, and said his campaign was about jobs.

At the Democrats’ party in Burlington, anti-Vermont Yankee activists mingled with longtime Democratic supporters. But even as some Shumlin campaign staff said their own internal vote count showed Shumlin the likely winner, the candidate was more guarded.

(Shumlin) "Tomorrow we will wake up, and a governor will be elected. I ask you to do the smart thing, think about some sleep, get some rest. And join me in waking up tomorrow ready to meet another day for the great state of Vermont." 

(Dillon) If neither candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, the contest will go to the Legislature in January, where lawmakers will decide the outcome by secret ballot.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Burlington.

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