Update: This story was updated to correct the 2016 statewide primary voter turnout percentage.
By LISA SCAGLIOTTI
Like weeds after a summer rain, campaign signs have sprouted at local intersections and along country lanes in the past few weeks, clear evidence of Vermont’s primary election on Tuesday.
Until recently, it was hard to tell that the entire 180-member state Legislature is up for election this year, along with statewide offices from governor to state auditor, Vermont’s sole seat in Congress and one of the state’s two U.S. Senate seats. Also on the primary ballot are a smattering of county judgeships and state’s attorney, sheriff and bailiff posts.
For many offices on the ballot, the contests will happen in the general election Nov. 6. The lack of competition and the fact that it’s still summertime are challenges for the candidates in races with primary opponents.
Vermont’s late-summer primary typically is a low draw. Will Senning, the state’s director of elections, said statewide turnout in 2016 was 26.5 percent of the state’s more than 453,000 registered voters, the highest of the last five election cycles; 2008, for example, had a turnout of just 8.5 percent, he said.
But for those who take the time to cast an early ballot at their town clerk’s office by Monday or head to the polls on Tuesday, Aug. 14, there are a few key primary races in which their votes can have an impact.
Race for governor
The highest-profile statewide primary is the race for the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nomination, and the chance to challenge Gov. Phil Scott on the November ballot.
Scott, a Republican, faces one long-shot primary opponent, Keith Stern from Springfield, who owns a produce business in White River Junction. Stern is a newcomer to statewide politics and has only recently gained some notoriety as he has appeared in candidate debates and interviews.
Stern faces a daunting challenge in Scott, a well-known first-term governor in the public eye for decades as a state senator, lieutenant governor and racecar driver.
The four Democratic candidates are James Ehlers of Winooski, executive director of the nonprofit environmental organization Lake Champlain International; Christine Hallquist of Hyde Park, former CEO of Vermont Electric Cooperative and the first transgender candidate to seek the state’s highest office; Brenda Siegel of Newfane, a self-described “low-income single mom” and founder of the Southern Vermont Dance Festival in Brattleboro; and Ethan Sonneborn of Bristol, a 14-year-old who will be in ninth grade this fall.
Other statewide offices
Four of the five other constitutional offices are held by Democrats who face no opposition in the primary.
First-term Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman of Hinesburg, a Progressive Party member, has a Republican challenger for November in state Rep. Don Turner of Milton.
State Treasurer Beth Pearce of Barre, Secretary of State Jim Condos of Montpelier, Auditor of Accounts Doug Hoffer of Burlington, and Attorney General TJ Donovan of South Burlington all are unopposed. In November, each will have perennial GOP candidate H. Brooke Paige of Washington, Vt., as a challenger. Paige is also running for Congress and U.S. Senate.
Vermont’s lone congressman, Democrat Peter Welch, is seeking his seventh term. He has two challengers on the Democratic primary ballot — Dan Freilich of West Windsor and Benjamin Mitchell of Westminster. In addition to Paige, Republican Anya Tynio of Charleston is seeking the House nomination.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, who ran for president in 2016, is on the Democratic primary ballot seeking his third Senate term. The longtime independent caucusing with the Democrats in the Senate and accepted the party’s endorsement. He has a largely unknown primary challenger, Folasade Adeluola, who lives in Shelburne.
In addition to Paige, three other obscure candidates are on the Republican ballot for the Senate seat: Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente from San Diego, who’s running for office in multiple states; Jasdeep Pannu from Essex; and Lawrence Zupan from Manchester.
Overall, the Democrats are likely to retain their majority in both houses of the Legislature.
Democrats Mike Yantachka, who represents Charlotte and a section of Hinesburg, and Bill Lippert, who represents Hinesburg, do not have primary contests. Lippert has a Republican challenger, newcomer Sarah Toscano, in the general election.
The main legislative race is for Chittenden County’s six state Senate seats. There are nine names on the Democratic primary ballot — all six incumbents, plus three challengers: Finnian Boardman Abbey of Jericho, Val Carzello of South Burlington and Steve May of Richmond.
The incumbent senators are Tim Ashe, Phil Baruth and Chris Pearson of Burlington; Debbie Ingram and Virginia “Ginny” Lyons, both of Williston; and Michael Sirotkin of South Burlington. The top six vote-getters on Tuesday will appear on the November ballot.
The GOP is fielding two state Senate candidates for Chittenden County : Alex Farrell of Burlington and Dana Maxfield of Milton.
The top six vote-getters in November will go to Montpelier in January.
At the bottom of the Democratic ballot are two contested races in Chittenden County — two candidates for sheriff and four candidates for two assistant judge seats. In both cases, incumbents are seeking re-election.
Kevin McLoughlin of Burlington, the county sheriff since 1987, is seeking another four-year term. His Democratic challenger is Mike Major of Shelburne, a captain in the sheriff’s department. No Republicans filed for sheriff.
Assistant Judges Connie Cain Ramsey and Charles Delaney, both Burlington Democrats, face primary challenges from Suzanne Brown of South Burlington and Zachary York of Burlington. The top two on Tuesday will be on the November ballot.
Probate Judge Gregory Glennon faces a challenge in the Democratic primary from former Winooski mayor Bill Norful.
Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George of South Burlington was the only person in either party to file for the office; likewise for High Bailiff Daniel Gamelin of Colchester. Both are Democrats.
There are no Republican candidates for any of the county offices. Likewise, the Progressive Party has no candidates on the Tuesday primary ballot.
Candidates filing as independents for the November election had until today, Aug. 9, to do so.
Resources for voters
• The Vermont Secretary of State’s website has a complete list of candidates for every office on the ballot with contact and website information for candidates: sec.state.vt.us/elections/candidates.
• Candidates for statewide office all have websites with varying amounts of information about their positions, background and views.
• Vermont.gov has background information on current state legislators, many of whom have their own websites and are accustomed to answering calls and messages from constituents.
• Vtdigger.org has an online election guide.
Local voting details
Voters in Charlotte may cast early ballots at the town clerk’s office through Monday at 4 p.m. On Tuesday, voting will be held at Charlotte Central School from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Voters in Hinesburg may cast early ballots at the town clerk’s office through Monday at 1 p.m. Town Clerk Melissa Ross said her office will close early Monday in order to set up for Tuesday’s all-day balloting. On Tuesday, voting will be held at Town Hall from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.