Uber-left Montpelier holds nose and votes Shumlin in too-close-to-call race


NOSE-HOLDER VOTE: In a governors race with no clear winner Tuesday night, voters in Montpelier held their noses and voted for Gov. Peter Shumlin.

By Bruce Parker | Vermont Watchdog

MONTPELIER, Vt. — In a governor’s race with no declared winner early Wednesday morning, voters in Vermont’s far-left capital city showed their support for Gov. Peter Shumlin — but even the governor’s ardent supporters voted while holding their noses.

Election night Tuesday ended without a clear victor in the Vermont governor’s race, even as Shumlin held a narrow 46 percent to 45 percent lead over Republican challenger Scott Milne. With 96 percent of the votes tallied early Wednesday morning, Shumlin held a narrow lead of 2,812 votes.

But in Montpelier, a diehard left precinct where Shumlin won a commanding 63 percent of the vote, residents who spoke to Vermont Watchdog were tepid to downright grim about their support for the governor.

Michael Hartman, a Shumlin supporter, said, “The health-care piece is really important but really seems to be on the rocks right now. And using that logic one would say, well, since Peter has been the lead dog on that one, does that make sense? It’s a messy thing.”

Jeremy Silansky, who voted for Shumlin in hopes of seeing marijuana legalized and single-payer implemented, said, “They’ve started something in motion (on single-payer health care), and yes, it’s broken and needs to be fixed. But I’d rather the same person keep working on it instead of someone new come in and start from scratch”

Some traditional Democratic voters in Montpelier defected from Shumlin and voted for Milne.

Chris Evans, a 25-year resident who concerned about his future prospects of retirement, said, “I’m not really impressed with Milne, and I’m not a traditional Republican, but he seemed to appeal to me on the health-care issue and freezing property taxes — two key points with me.”

Conrad Gordon, a 34-year state employee and self-identified Democrat, said, “I didn’t vote for Shumlin — he didn’t do what he said, and he’s on vacation too much. … When I was a state employee, I was very active in the union and he was very good to us. When he became governor, he changed.”

Richard Sheir, who voted for third-party candidate Emily Peyton, said, “Is Emily going to win? No. Emily realizes she’s not going to win. But every vote for an Emily is a vote that Shumlin should realize didn’t go to him because he wasn’t out there working anything beyond the traditional Democratic circle.”

Of the many issues turning voters sour on Shumlin, skyrocketing property taxes loomed large in minds of Montpelier residents.

“I’m struggling to pay property taxes but they just keep going up. I’m coming toward retirement in my life and I don’t know if I can stay here in Vermont. I don’t know if I can continue to pay my property taxes,” Evans said.

“I think if your kids are grown up and gone you should have a lower tax than the people whose kids are in school. Why should I pay so much in taxes for my house when I paid it for 40 years? Now they raise it,” Gordon said.

“If you live in Montpelier, then obviously you just decided to screw yourself pretty well. I was talking to a financial planner last week and he looked at the tax bill and said, ‘Wow, those are some of the highest taxes I know of that anyone ever walked in here with,’” Hartman said.

Other Montpelier voters were uncomfortable about taxpayer-subsidized health care.

“Imagine for a second that you’re one of the many Vermonters who’s running a business within easy driving distance of New Hampshire, and you’re not charging our current sales tax rate — you’re charging in the teens. If it’s not crippling, it sure is a perception that this is way out of control. … The cost of single-payer is just going to be staggering, and paying for it will tie the Legislature into pretzels,” said Sheir.

For some voters, Shumlin’s lackluster appeal came down to personal issues.

“I don’t like Shumlin. He doesn’t live up to his word,” Gordon said.

Sheir said the governor was no longer an accessible retail politician.

“Peter Shumlin did not stop in my wife’s store. Emily Peyton stopped in the store, and she was nice. She was knowledgeable on the issues. The others were conducting a campaign from 500 feet up in the air. … There’s a point in time where politics should be retail. You see Welsh at the farmer’s market. You see Bernie at the farmer’s market. You occasionally see Phil Scott walking around town. And it makes a difference.”

Contact Bruce Parker at bparker@watchdog.org