Minter wins Democratic primary by wide margins in Vermont's gubernatorial race
Voters in the Democratic primary delivered an electoral mandate on Tuesday. Now, Sue Minter will try to use it to become Vermont’s first female governor in 25 years.
Minter had the look of triumph on Tuesday night as she strode to the podium to deliver her victory speech. And for good reason.
Supporters at her election-night watch party in downtown Burlington were hoping for a win. But even the most optimistic among them couldn’t have predicted her 14-point landslide over second-place finisher Matt Dunne.
“I am incredibly proud to be standing up and fighting for our shared vision of what Vermont can be,” Minter said.
With more than 50 percent of the vote in a three-way primary, Democratic voters have handed Minter the party’s reins.
On Tuesday, she told supporters she’ll use them to steer her campaign to victory in November.
“Vermont has never stopped being great, and we do not need to slow down, we need to charge forward into the future,” Minter said. “On to November!”
Minter's opponent Dunne had stitched together an impressive patchwork of labor constituencies, including the state workers union, AFL-CIO and Professional Firefighters of Vermont.
But late-race revelations about his stance on wind power — Dunne wanted towns to have veto power over ridgeline wind projects — drew the ire of the renewable energy community, and cost him the support of one of his most prominent supporters: climate-change activist Bill McKibben.
At his own event in Burlington, Dunne told supporters that the end of his campaign won’t be the end of his advocacy.
“And this work isn’t over,” Dunne said., “And it may not be in a political arena, but we’re going to keep working hard.”
Dunne has now lost three statewide races, including one for governor in 2010.
The 2016 campaign is Minter’s first on the statewide stage.
Peter Galbraith, the third candidate in the field, finished with 10 percent of the vote.
Minter now faces a general election contest against Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, who easily bested his primary rival, former Wall Street executive Bruce Lisman.
Minter, a four-term state representative, left the Statehouse to take a position as deputy secretary of transportation under Gov. Peter Shumlin in January of 2011. Eight months later, Tropical Storm Irene devastated portions of the state, and her tenure as chief of Irene recovery operations has served as the centerpiece of her gubernatorial campaign.
“And I really learned the meaning of what it means to be 'Vermont Strong,'” Minter said in her speech Tuesday. “Because when Vermonters come together with a shared mission there is nothing they can’t do.”
The same abilities that allowed her to harness bureaucracy for the benefit of local communities during that crisis, Minter says, will allow her to improve operations across government as governor.
And in an interview after the speech, Minter said her leadership experience as secretary of transportation is what sets her apart from Scott.
“I … managed 1,300 people, balanced a $600 million budget, and I don’t think anyone else has close to that kind of experience that Vermonters can count on,” Minter said.
Minter staked out strong positions during the primary campaign on gun control, renewable energy development and increased funding for higher education.
Minter’s stance on the development of mountaintop wind turbines set her apart from her primary rivals – Galbraith favored a ban on ridgeline wind development; Dunne wanted to give towns veto power over projects proposed in their borders.
On many other issues, there wasn’t a lot of daylight between Minter and her primary rivals. But her support for tuition-free community and technical college for Vermont residents, her plans to use public financing for portions of the health care system and her push for a $12.50 minimum wage by 2018 and a $15 minimum wage sometime thereafter will make for a much starker policy contrast against Scott.
Former Gov. Madeline Kunin made an appearance at Minter’s victory party, where Minter thanked her for “being the star that leads the pack.”
Minter would be the state’s second woman governor if elected in November.