Corcoran, Whitman win Democratic primary in Bennington 2-1 House district
James, Bongartz lead in Bennington 4-4
BENNINGTON — Incumbent Rep. Timothy Corcoran II and newcomer Dane Whitman easily won spots on the Nov. 3 ballot during Democratic Primary voting Tuesday.
In the Bennington-2-1 House district, Corcoran was the top vote-getter, with 804 votes, while Whitman was close behind with 780 votes.
Michael Stern finished third in the race for two ballot spots with 232 votes.
Corcoran is seeking a ninth term in the Legislature, where he is the ranking member on the House Committee on Transportation.
Whitman is the Bennington Democratic Committee chairman and a local businessman who graduated from Bennington College.
Whitman has said during the campaign that he intends to focus on initiatives that combine "societal benefits with economic returns on investment," such as workforce development.
He also wants to attract more young people to Vermont, and to strengthen the existing talent pool in the state by tackling poverty, food and housing insecurity, and addiction recovery.
In November, the two Democrats will face Republican Colleen Harrington, who was unopposed in her party's primary. Harrington received 224 votes.
Corcoran is the only incumbent in the two-seat House district because Democratic Rep. Chris Bates is not seeking re-election.
In the other Bennington House race, in District 2-2, Democrat Rep. Jim Carroll and newcomer Michael Nigro were unopposed in the primary for the two Democratic ballot spots, with 737 and 647 votes respectively, and incumbent Republican Rep. Mary Morrissey was unopposed for her party's nomination. She received 356 votes.
Those three candidates will face off for two House seats in the Nov. 3 election.
Harwood leads in Bennington-3
In the contest for the Republican nomination for the Bennington-3 House district, Victor Harwood, Jr., a Navy veteran and Shaftsbury resident, held a slim lead over longtime school board member Francis Kinney as of Tuesday evening, according to unofficial vote totals available on the Secretary of State's website.
Harwood received 163 votes to Kinney's 138 votes, according to the unofficial tally.
The winner will face incumbent Democrat David Durfee in November. Durfee ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, receiving 661 votes, more than 91 percent of total votes cast, according to the state website.
Kinney and Harwood attended school together and currently are neighbors in Shaftsbury, the two candidates said in interviews. A mowed path links their adjacent properties.
Harwood served as an aircraft maintenance officer in the U.S. Navy, retiring as a lieutenant commander after 20 years of service, he said. He later worked as a defense contractor.
Harwood returned to Vermont in 2012, having left the state in 1978. He mentioned a decline in manufacturing and a rise in property taxes since that time as part of what made him want to run for office and expressed an interest in streamlining state government.
Kinney, currently a member of the Mount Anthony Union School District and Southwestern Vermont Supervisory Union boards, said in an interview on Monday that he has more than 35 years of school-board experience.
The Shaftsbury resident is "sick of the same old, same old," he said, and wants "to get some new blood up there with some common sense and different ideas."
Asked about potential policy focuses if he were elected, Kinney said he would want to "wait and see what the temperature is up there" but mentioned an opposition to abortion, physician-assisted suicide and marijuana legalization.
Kinney unsuccessfully challenged now-former Democratic state Rep. Alice Miller for her legislative seat in 2010.
"He's a nice guy," Kinney said of his neighbor and opponent, adding that Harwood would do just as well, if not better, than him in Montpelier.
Harwood likewise said he would be "happy" with either of them winning and said he contributed to Kinney's campaign the last time he pursued state office.
The Bennington-3 district includes Shaftsbury, Glastenbury and Sunderland.
Shaftsbury Town Clerk Marlene Hall said on Tuesday that voting, held at the town's DPW Garage at 526 North Road, had been "very slow and steady," with more than 900 absentee ballots already having been requested.
Hall said that administrators were "enjoying the new space" — a change from the fire house this year. "It's all spread out, there's plenty of room, and it's warm but it's not terribly hot."
Durfee said that the primary season for him had "been fairly low key."
"I haven't been able to go door to door campaigning," he said. "I've been trying to make up for that with phone calls."
James, Bongartz take Bennington 4-4
In the Bennington 4-4 House district, Kathleen James and Seth Bongartz will represent Democrats in November in the general election.
James, one of two incumbents in the position, and Bongartz, who joined the race this year, ran as a team.
Jamie Dufour, who also threw her hat in the ring this year, finished third.
Unofficial results for Manchester, Arlington, Sandgate and Sunderland showed James with 1,320 votes, Bongartz with 1,057 votes to take the two top spots. Dufour had 336 votes.
James and Bongartz will face incumbent Cynthia Browning, who has chosen to run for reelection as an Independent.
There are no declared Republicans in the race, but they have until Friday to declare.
James said the win is the first step and expects a good race in the months to come.
"I'm looking forward to the November election," James said. "It's really going to be about two things. How we can help our communities recover from COVID. It's going to be about how we can help our families, our businesses, our towns and the schools recover from the devastation of the pandemic."
She said voters will choose who they think can best achieve those goals
"Who are the leaders who can get that work done here in Bennington-4," James said. "There are three strong candidates. We've got a great race. We'll have a lot to talk about including the issues and leadership style."
Dufour, who said she wasn't in the mood to offer much in the way of comment said she wished the other candidates well.
Efforts to reach Bongartz were unsuccessful.
Corcoran sets priorities
Corcoran, the ranking member of the House Committee on Transportation, said during the campaign, "I personally believe I still bring a voice of reason to the table, and am someone who understands that compromising is key to getting things done," he said. "There's been plenty of votes in my years of representing Bennington 2-1 that I struggled with, but at the end of the day, I always did what I felt was best for my constituents."
In balancing the state budget, with a projected $300-plus million deficit due to the COVID-19 epidemic, "there's going to be tough decisions made," Corcoran said. "If elected again, I'll be sure to lend my voice to protect the best interests of Bennington 2-1 district."
In general, Corcoran has said he "always tried to bring a common sense approach to any piece of legislation," not based solely on party affiliation or ideology. "I really pride myself on listening to what the proposal is and what is the effect, negative or pro and go from there.
Corcoran is a lifelong Bennington resident who is employed by Hoisington Realty.
He was educated at Mt. Anthony Union High School and Johnson State College, where he received a bachelor's degree in political science.
Whitman, 26, is a 2016 Bennington College graduate who stayed on in North Bennington after college.
He now operates a business, Grey Oak Landscaping and Garden Design.
He was raised in California and moved to Vermont in 2012 to attend Bennington College's Center for the Advancement of Public Action. His studies focused on land use, food systems and environmental justice.
Whitman is a member of the Shires Young Professionals Advisory Board and also serves on the Southwest Vermont Regional Technical School District board and as choir director for the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Bennington.
Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including the Bennington Banner and Manchester Journal. Luke Nathan, Darren Marcy and David LaChance contributed to this report.
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