- Associated Press - Monday, September 1, 2014

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - This election cycle is shaping up to be a favorable one for Vermont incumbents.

With about two months to go until the Nov. 4 election, Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin holds a more than 20-to-1 fundraising lead over Republican challenger Scott Milne.

But Milne, a Pomfret businessman and political newcomer fresh off his primary victory, is promising a spirited fight to unseat Shumlin, whose campaign bank account was recently reported at $1.1 million.

“I’m completely content to indict Shumlin and the people around him for incompetent management. He has no defense. All he has is rhetoric,” Milne said this past week.

Milne promised to zero in on problems in the Agency of Human Services, including the bungled rollout of Vermont’s health insurance exchange website and concerns about whether the agency’s Department for Children and Families is responding adequately to child abuse complaints.

A central theme of Milne’s campaign has been to restore political balance to a state government largely controlled by Democrats.

“Even people who are very progressive realize that an out-of-control, radical, progressive agenda … doesn’t have enough of a filter to slow it down enough,” he said.

The Shumlin campaign issued a statement Friday faulting Milne for too much negativity.

“It is much easier to be against everything than for something, and it appears that is where Mr. Milne is finding himself. Vermonters will have a clear choice this November,” it said.

Eric Davis, a retired Middlebury College political science professor, said Milne’s chances are slim, in part because he has failed to articulate clear positions on the range of issues facing state government.

Shumlin is vulnerable on some of the issues Milne is trying to raise, Davis said, “but I don’t think Scott Milne is the candidate who can exploit those vulnerabilities.”

Milne said he will be detailing his positions on certain issues in the coming weeks, including health care and the Lake Champlain pollution. Some Republicans have chided Milne for not coming out strongly against Shumlin’s plan to move Vermont to a universal, government-funded health care system.

In the U.S. House, four-term Democratic Rep. Peter Welch is looking to retain his seat against the Republican nominee, Woodstock police Officer Mark Donka. Welch beat Donka by a 2-to-1 margin two years ago.

Dean Corren was expected to be declared Tuesday as the winner of both the Progressive and Democratic nominations for lieutenant governor. If so, he’ll face Phil Scott, the only Republican holding statewide office. The mild-mannered Scott has the support of some top Democrats in the state Senate, over which he presides. Corren is pushing universal health coverage, a goal dear to many voters in one of the most liberal states.

Corren was unopposed in the Progressive Party primary and sought write-in votes as the only declared candidate in the Democratic primary. The secretary of state’s office on Sunday reported more than 6,400 write-in votes in the Democratic primary but said it wouldn’t have a tally of how many of them went to Corren until Tuesday.

Republican Shane McCormack of Underhill, also a political newcomer, is challenging longtime Attorney General Bill Sorrell, a Democrat. Sorrell has held the office since Gov. Howard Dean appointed him in 1997. McCormack, a lawyer at a Burlington firm, jumped into the race Aug. 22, saying he wanted to give voters a choice.

Republicans have no candidates for three other state offices: secretary of state, auditor and treasurer.

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