Unusually High Number Of House Seats Headed For Recounts

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(Host) Vermont Democrats retained their supermajority in the legislature in last week’s elections.

But an unusually high number of House seats appear to be headed for a recount.

Party leaders say the number of close races should be a wake-up call to lawmakers to listen carefully to their constituents.

VPR’s Susan Keese reports.


­­­­­­(Keese) The House race in Windsor-Orange 1 could  be a primer on the forces at work on Vermont politics. The district encompasses Royalton and Tunbridge, and it’s one of the seats where a recount has been requested.

Sarah Buxton, a former Howard Dean staffer, defeated incumbent Republican David Ainsworth, a fifth-generation dairy farmer.

But only by one vote.

(Buxton) "882 to 881."

(Keese) Buxton decided that the political system was broken while working on Howard Dean’s national campaign. She returned to her home state and enrolled in the Vermont Law School, where her belief in local government was rekindled.

(Buxton) "Vermont has a system of democracy that is strong and should be replicated in other states and I want to be part of that."

(Keese) Buxton’s campaign featured multi-sided forums on issues like education funding.

She says the more people participate in the Democratic process, the better.

Buxton’s opponent, David Ainsworth, is a longtime town meeting moderator and the last active dairy farmer in the Vermont House. 

(Ainsworth) "I guess I’m more of an opinion that you let the people of the community try to work things out rather than the set back and let the government solve your problems."

(Keese) The Windsor-Orange contest is one of a possible eight seats where a recount may settle very close numbers.

House Majority Leader Floyd Nease says that’s unusual.

(Nease) "This is my third election in leadership and this is the biggest number of close races I’ve seen and I was talking with others in leadership who say they’ve never seen anything like it."

(Keese) Nease says Buxton is the only Democrat to win a House seat from the GOP – at least on the first count.

But he says the number of close votes for Democratic incumbents sends a message that Vermont is not immune to the anti-incumbent fever that swept other states this election cycle. .

(Nease) "Once the recounts are over and they’re in their seats they need to be communicating with their constituents and spending a lot of time in their districts listening. There’s something to listen to out there, that you need to hear."

(Keese) In Rutland City, three Democratic incumbent winners may be challenged. Incumbent Gale Courcelle, who kept her seat by one vote, is one of them. Peg Andrews kept her seat by 25 votes.

Herb Font-Russell also has a one-vote win. His challenger Carl Haas – who is asking for a recount – says the district has traditionally gone Democratic. But the GOP has made inroads.

Other races that could see recounts include one in Essex and another in St Johnsbury.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese.

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