MANCHESTER — Mike Rice said Wednesday that he’s “just really excited to get to work.”
Rice, D-Dorset, defeated William Gaiotti, R-Mount Tabor, by a margin of 1,169 to 1,040 to win the Bennington-Rutland District seat in the Vermont House of Representatives. Gaiotti led 401-220 in Danby and 78-13 in Mount Tabor, but good showings in Dorset (694-466), Landgrove (87-23) and Peru (155-72) were enough for Rice to take the election.
“It was a really good campaign on both sides,” said Rice, who was elected to public office for the first time. “I just tried to meet as many people in the five towns as I could and hear what they’re looking for from their state Legislature.”
Gaiotti was not immediately available for comment Wednesday morning.
James, Bongartz return to House
In the Bennington-4 District, things were not nearly as close. The district, which awards two seats, was won handily by the team of Democratic incumbents Kathleen James (2,516 votes) and Seth Bongartz (2,503) of Manchester. Bongartz trailed James by just a handful of votes in every town except Manchester, where the total was 1,500-1,490 in favor of Bongartz.
James and Bongartz nearly doubled the votes for Republican candidate Joe Gervais, who received 1,368. Gervais trailed Bongartz by an even 200 votes in his hometown of Arlington (684-484). Gervais’ received the most support in Sandgate, where he only trailed Bongartz for the second seat 112-89.
It was not nearly as close in Manchester (James’ 1,490 to Gervais’ 687) or Sunderland (207-137).
“I’m really excited to represent our communities during the upcoming biennium, so we can keep working on critical issues like housing, child care, education and climate,” James said. “[Seth and I] will be announcing our constituent coffee hours very soon and look forward to hearing from folks across the district.”
Gervais also received the eighth most votes for justice of the peace in Arlington, which only awards seven positions.
“I put in a good effort, and I’m proud of the results,” Gervais said. “I wish Kathleen and Seth the best.”
Voters in the Northshire were clearly motivated to make it to the polls, perhaps at least in part because of the two hot-button initiatives on the ballot.
The Northshire was in line with the statewide trend of support for Proposition 2, which clarified the Vermont Constitution on the prohibition of slavery, and Proposition 5, which ensures reproductive liberty for all citizens of Vermont. Both only required a majority vote to be ratified, but passed overwhelmingly.
“I think this is probably the most important [election] that I can remember in my 88 years,” said Joe Will, as he and his wife, Norma, left Manchester Town Hall. “I think not just for the interest in rulings here, but the whole country.”
Multiple town clerks in the Northshire happily reported higher-than-average traffic through the voting booths.
They are backed by data showing towns across the Northshire all exceeding the state average for voter turnout this year of just under 55 percent, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Dorset was among the highest in all of Vermont, with 68 percent of registered voters casting a ballot.
“In the 2020 general election, we had a rough estimate of 2,800 voters,” said Anita Sheldon, town clerk for Manchester. “So for a midterm election, what we’re at is pretty incredible, in my opinion.”
There were 2,242 of 3,838 registered voters (58 percent) who turned out in Manchester.
In notable races for local office, James Gulley, D-Bennington, won Arlington in a landslide over Joel Howard, R-Pownal, 656-341.
Beau Alexander received the third most votes with 118.
In the Rutland-Bennington District, Democratic candidate Robin Chestnut-Tangerman defeated Republican Sally Achey for the Vermont House seat by a somehwat slim 1,179-1,019 margin. Chestnut-Tangerman took both candidates’ hometown of Middletown Springs (270-225), as well as Pawlet (418-336), Rupert (217-164), and Tinmouth (156-142), while Achey won Wells (158-112).
Incumbent for the Windham-Windsor-Bennington House seat, Kelly Pajala, I-Londonderry, ran unopposed.