MONTPELIER -- Vermonters gave President Barack Obama an overwhelming endorsement Tuesday, handing the state’s three electoral votes to the Democrat’s total, while left-leaning independent U.S. Bernie Sanders, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and Gov. Peter Shumlin cruised to re-election.
It was a good night for incumbents in Vermont, with the one bright spot for Republicans among statewide races being the re-election of Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.
GOP hopes for picking up the state treasurer’s office and holding onto the auditor’s office appeared headed for naught, with Democrat-Progressive Doug Hoffer leading Republican Vince Illuzzi in the race for auditor and Beth Pearce leading in the contest for treasurer over Republican Wendy Wilton.
Shumlin told cheering supporters at a Democratic rally in Burlington on Tuesday night he was pleased to have what he called "the overwhelming endorsement of Vermonters that we have for two more years of jobs and job creation and a better future for Vermonters. Thank you so much."
Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock, a state senator from Franklin County, called Tuesday night "the final chapter in the greatest experience that I’ve had in my entire life." He said he would seek to stay in public life in some fashion.
Attorney General William Sorrell easily won an eighth two-year term over Republican challenger Jack McMullen.
Secretary of State Jim Condos, who had both the Democratic and Republican nominations, coasted to a second term with just minor party opposition.
Weather was clear and chilly and voting appeared to be relatively glitch-free around the state except in Barre, where a propane leak caused officials to close the city’s one polling place and move it to another location about a quarter mile away. The poll was closed for about 30 minutes in midafternoon.
"Closing the polls is very serious and we take it very seriously," Barre Mayor Thomas Lauzon said. Luckily, the closure came during a relatively slow time of day. "The rush that we experience is early in the morning, noontime and right about now," he said at about 5 p.m.
Vermont was an easy win for Obama -- it was the first state to be called for the Democrat the second election in a row.
"We’ve had four years of him. We know where we’re headed," said Max Fortune of Moretown.
"I feel that with Mitt Romney it’s an unknown," said Fortune, who is retired. "I don’t like his tactics on the campaign. I didn’t like either one of their tactics for a while, but I’m more comfortable with President Obama right now because I know what we’re in for. I know what we’re going to get."
Fortune spoke as he passed out brochures Tuesday outside the Thatcher Brook Primary School in Waterbury about an expanding landfill in his hometown. He said he had already voted in his hometown.
But in Barre, Charlie Mulcahy, 51, and his wife, Gail, 47, said they voted for Romney.
"I think he’s going to be more with the common-sense thing than Obama," said Gail Mulcahy, a self-employed seller of beauty products. The couple moved to Vermont from Massachusetts six years ago. "I think he’s going to be more for the people and not be spending all our money that we didn’t have in the first place."
It was tough to find a Romney supporter in Montpelier, known as a Democratic stronghold in a Democratic state. Even Dexter Lefavour, a Republican candidate for the state Senate who held a sign advertising himself outside the polling place at Montpelier City Hall, said he had voted not for Romney, but for the Libertarian candidate for president, Gary Johnson.
Johnson got his vote "because he respects the principles I believe in: personal freedom, liberty, smaller government, limiting military imperialism," Lefavour said.
Some voters said they were disappointed in Obama’s first four years, but still saw him as far preferable to Romney.
"The biggest issue for me this election is keeping the barbarians out of government," said Tom Wies, a retired Montpelier lawyer who said he voted for Obama and Gov. Peter Shumlin.
Sanders, a former Burlington mayor and U.S. House member seeking his second six-year term in the Senate, frequently criticizes an America in which he says the rich get more while the rest get squeezed. Federal Election Commission reports show Sanders had amassed $6.8 million in campaign funds as of Sept. 30, versus less than $77,000 for Republican challenger John MacGovern.
Welch enjoyed a similar advantage over another Republican with little cash or name recognition, Mark Donka.
Donka had not met the $5,000 threshold for fundraising that would have required a campaign finance report on Sept. 30, while Welch had $1.3 million.
Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos and Attorney General William Sorrell were re-elected Tuesday as the outcomes of the first of Vermont’s statewide down-ticket races became known.
Meanwhile, incumbent State Treasurer Beth Pearce, a Democrat, was leading her Republican challenger Wendy Wilton as votes were being counted across Vermont.
The treasurer’s race had been considered the most competitive of the down-ticket races, with the GOP given a chance to pick up the seat from Pearce, who was appointed to the post by Gov. Peter Shumlin.
In another down-ticket race, Democratic state Auditor candidate Doug Hoffer was leading Republican Vince Illuzzi.
Some Vermont political observers had felt the state treasurer’s race was the GOP’s best chance to pick up a statewide office in the election.
The state treasurer is responsible for watching over the state’s public pension funds and making annual recommendations to the Legislature and the governor about prudent borrowing and other aspects of financial stewardship.
The auditor’s job is to review the state’s annual financial statements, which are prepared by an outside accounting firm, and conduct a wide range of financial and operational reviews of state and municipal agencies.
The current auditor, Republican Tom Salmon, did not seek re-election.