Republicans make inroads in State House

-A A +A

Republicans make inroads in State House

Wed, 11/05/2014 - 11:55am -- tim

by vtdigger.org House Minority Leader Don Turner can look forward to a healthier Republican caucus in the new Legislature. With results incomplete in a few key districts, the Republicans have won at least eight seats from Democrats and Progressives, and in another district, an independent unseated a Democratic incumbent. It also appears that the Republicans will pick up two seats in the state Senate. The Democrats, however, will continue to hold large majorities in both chambers.

“Our message has been loud and clear, and it has resonated with voters all around the state,” Turner said in a speech to the GOP’s election night gathering in Burlington.

Turner cited state spending out of line with personal economic struggles of Vermonters. And he credited the hard work of qualified candidates who turned out votes and kept on message about unaffordable policies of incumbents.

House Minority Leader Don Turner introduces GOP candidates at a campaign rally at the State House. Photo by Tom Brown/VTDigger

The GOP wins began early, with a pair of Republican pickups in St. Johnsbury. In a race for two seats, Scott Beck was a clear winner, and Janssen Willhoit barely edged out Democrat Michelle Kay for second place, 830-803.

In neighboring Caledonia-1, Republican Marcia Martel easily defeated incumbent Democrat Claudette Sortino.

The surprise of the night may have been in Addison-4, a district currently represented by two powerful Democrats, Mike Fisher and David Sharpe. Unofficial returns have Republican Fred Baser first with 1,878 votes; Sharpe second at 1,767; Fisher third with 1,740, and Republican Valerie Mullin trailing with 1,519. The surprise is partly that an influential Democrat will lose, and partly that the well-funded and well-publicized Mullin was not the Republican who won.

Republicans gained three seats in the Burlington suburbs. In Chittenden 8-2, Democrat Tim Jerman finished a strong first in a race for two seats; Republicans Paul Dame and Tim Allard ran to a photo-finish for the second seat, with Dame holding a 31-vote lead. Incumbent Democrat Linda Waite-Simpson came in fourth place.

In Chittenden 8-3, Republican Robert Bancroft will take the place of retiring Democrat Martha Heath; he won a resounding victory over Democrat Liz Subin.

Chittenden 9-1 was another closely fought battle for two seats. Democrat Jim Condon finished first, and will return to the Legislature. Republican Joey Purvis edged out Democrat Curt Taylor for the district’s other seat.

Republicans gained two seats in Franklin County. In Franklin 3-1, St. Albans City, Republican challenger Corey Parent finished a strong first. Longtime Democratic incumbent Kathleen Keenan took the second seat; her Democratic colleague, Mike McCarthy, finished third.

The Progressive Party lost a seat in northern Franklin County, as Cindy Weed was unseated by Republican Larry Fiske.

In Rutland-Windsor-1, Republican Job Tate defeated incumbent Democrat Anne Gallivan.

Incumbent Democrat John Moran was unseated by independent Laura Sibilia, an economic development professional, in the Windham-Bennington district.

State Senate

Republicans will pick up at least two seats in the Vermont Senate if late figures from Tuesday’s election hold up.

The GOP was poised to gain seats in Franklin and Rutland counties.

With only Fairfax not reporting in Franklin County, Incumbent Republican Sen. Norm McCallister held a 1,200-vote lead over Democrat Sara Branon Kittell for the county’s second seat. Dustin Degree led the pack with 6,134 votes to McAllister’s 5,656 and Kittell’s 4,413 in the two-seat district. Degree would replace retired Democratic Sen. Don Collins.

In Rutland County, Republican Brian Collamore defeated Democrat William Tracy Carris by 2,000 for the third seat. Sen. Eldred French, a Democrat appointed to Carris’ father, was in fifth place.

Collamore will join incumbents Republicans Peg Flory and Kevin Mullin in the all-GOP Rutland delegation in the senate. Flory was the top vote getter with 10,212; Mullin had 9,931; Collamor 9,280; Carris 7,356; and French 5,650.

Two other senate races that were expected to be tight appeared to be leaning toward the Democrat/Progressive column.

Sen. Anthony Pollina, P/D-Washington, and Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, greet voters outside Montpelier City Hall on Nov. 4, 2014. Photo by Anne Galloway

Sen. Anthony Pollina, P/D-Washington, and Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, greet voters outside Montpelier City Hall on Nov. 4, 2014. Photo by Anne Galloway

In Washington County, Sen. Anthony Pollina held off Republican Pat McDonald in the three-seat district. Incumbent Sen. Bill Doyle, a Republican, had 10,918; Democratic Sen. Ann Cummings had 10,669; Pollina had 9,923; and McDonald was fourth with 8,488.

In Orange County, with 10 of 11 towns reporting, incumbent Democrat Mark MacDonald held a 643-vote lead over Republican Robert Frenier.

Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, head of the Republican senate campaign effort, was pleased with the prospect of adding two senators to the seven it already had in the 30-member body.

“If we had picked up one it would have been a good evening,” Benning said. “It’s no secret that ideology has trumped practical ability (in the Legislature). Abstract concepts (such as single payer health care) have not been supported with the muscle of Vermonters. Now we are starting to see the return to voices that will be more pragmatic.”

A challenge in Chittenden County by Republican Joy Limoge fell short as all six incumbents were returned to Montpelier, including the lone Republican, Diane Snelling. Limoge outspent all of the other senate candidates.