Statewide Contests Expected To Draw Voters To Polls

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(Host) ‘Decision day’ of Campaign 2010 is now upon us. Polls opened in many towns at 7:00 a.m. – and they’ll be open in all communities by ten a.m.

As VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, there’s a lot of interest in a number of statewide contests, because for the first time in many years, there are vacancies in several key offices.

(Kinzel) Governor Jim Douglas’s decision not to seek a fifth term in office had a huge impact on Vermont’s political landscape in 2010.

For the first time in 8 years there would be an open race for governor and a number of statewide officeholders jumped into the contest. This development created vacancies for Lt. Governor and Secretary of State.

Senate President Peter Shumlin won a slim 200 vote victory in a crowded five way Democratic primary after a recount and that set up a short and intense campaign between Shumlin and Republican Lt. Governor Brian Dubie.

At their VPR debate, each candidate was asked what they hoped voters would remember about them when they went to cast their ballot.  Peter Shumlin described himself this way:

(Shumlin) "Say what’s working and what’s not and willing to take on the tough battles and make the changes necessary to get Vermont back on track, back to work and make us strong again. So I hope they remember I’ve got a track record, I know how to get it done."

(Kinzel) And Brian Dubie had these thoughts.

(Dubie) "It troubles me that four times the national average of our young people leave our state. I’m running for governor to change that statistic. I have four children I want my children to be able to have the opportunities that I had growing up in this great state and we can do that."

(Kinzel) In the race for Lt. Governor, five term Republican state senator Phil Scott said his experience will be needed because many Senate leaders aren’t coming back.

(Scott) "I think that we need to help fill that void and I think it’s important to have somebody with the experience that can do that."

(Kinzel) Democratic candidate Steve Howard has served 6 terms in the House. He called for the development of a new Statehouse intern program to help get young people more involved in government.

(Howard) "Give them a role in crafting the future of Vermont and they will make Vermont their home."

(Kinzel) There’s also a competitive race for Secretary of State, where former Democratic state senator Jim Condos is running against Republican Jason Gibbs.  Gibbs served as Governor Douglas’s press secretary and most recently was Forest and Parks commissioner.

The race for Auditor has also drawn a lot of attention because incumbent Tom Salmon switched parties.  Salmon was elected as a Democrat in 2008 but later became a Republican. He’s being challenged by Democrat Doug Hoffer who works as a policy analyst.

And voters will consider an amendment to the Vermont Constitution that would allow 17 year olds to vote in the August primary if their 18th birthday falls between primary day and the November election.

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

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