Vermont Governor Re-Elected After Failing To Win Majority

January 8, 2015 11:43 a.m.

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin was elected to a third two-year term by state lawmakers on Thursday, in an election prompted by his failure to win a majority of the popular vote in November.

Shumlin defeated Republican Scott Milne by a vote of 110-to-69 in a joint session of the Vermont Legislature, an outcome that was expected given the strong majorities in both the House and Senate held by Shumlin’s fellow Democrats.

But Milne had refused to concede after a narrow loss in the midterm elections, and one organization had been airing a television ad asking voters to urge their lawmakers to support him.

Shumlin prevailed despite facing a major setback last month when he announced that he was dropping his long-sought goal of a universal, publicly funded health care system for the state. He said the tax increases it would have required were too big to impose on residents and businesses.

“It’s been an incredible honor to serve as governor of Vermont, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to continue serving this state I love,” Shumlin said in a statement released Thursday.

He was slated to deliver an inaugural address to lawmakers later Thursday in which he was expected to describe financial perils facing the state. Vermont has seen revenues come in below forecast and faces an estimated $100 million budget shortfall for fiscal 2016, which starts July 1.

The Legislature chose the governor for the third time since 2003 under a provision of the state Constitution that if no candidate for governor, lieutenant governor or treasurer wins 50 percent plus one vote, lawmakers get to decide.

In most circumstances, the second-place finisher concedes to the top vote-getter even if the latter does not get a majority, and the Legislature’s vote is merely a formality. That’s what happened in 2003 and in 2011, after Shumlin won his first term.

But this time, Milne didn’t, and instead he sharply criticized the Democrat throughout the prolonged election process.

Shumlin has “wasted four years’ worth of opportunity to get our economy on track and it’s time to give somebody else the reins,” Milne, 55, said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

Milne, a travel agency president and political newcomer from Pomfret, had been urging lawmakers to vote as their constituents did in each district, which could have resulted in a 90-90 tie. By Thursday, his tone had changed.

“I think it’s a good day for Vermont,” he said after the vote. “I was happy to be a part of it. I think the road that’s led us here has a lot of people feeling like one person can make a difference.”

Shumlin, 58, a longtime lawmaker who moved from Putney to East Montpelier after his election as governor, has repeatedly said he believes the top vote-getter should be given the nod by lawmakers, even without having received a majority of the popular vote.

The governor has pointed to long precedent, including 2002, when he conceded to Brian Dubie when no one won a majority in that year’s race for lieutenant governor, and 2010, when Dubie conceded to him in the gubernatorial race that first elected Shumlin.

This week, Shumlin said he supported an amendment to the state Constitution, first proposed in 1974 but never passed, that would lower the threshold to 40 percent at which a plurality winner of the popular vote would be deemed elected.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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