- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 9, 2016

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Vermont’s November election for governor will pit Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott against Democrat Sue Minter, a former lawmaker and transportation secretary, based on unofficial results Tuesday night in the state primary election.

With 82 percent of precincts reporting, an Associated Press tally had Scott winning support from 61 percent of Republican primary voters, with just under 40 percent for retired businessman and political newcomer Bruce Lisman.

The secretary of state’s office, doing a separate vote tally, was getting similar results, with Scott leading Lisman about 61 percent to 39 percent.

On the Democratic side, the AP called the race for Minter, who had received 51 percent of the vote, versus 38 percent for former lawmaker Matt Dunne. Former state Sen. Peter Galbraith was drawing 9 percent, and two other candidates had less than 1 percent each.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy coasted to his eighth nomination for a job he’s had since 1975 over Cris Ericson.

In the race for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, AP called the race for state Sen. David Zuckerman, who had 44 percent to about 38 percent for House Speaker Shap Smith and about 18 percent for Rep. Kesha Ram.

AP called the Democratic primary for state attorney general for T.J. Donovan, who will face Republican St. Johnsbury lawyer Deborah Bucknam in the fall. Incumbent Democratic Treasurer Beth Pearce beat back a primary challenge by Richard Dunne. She faces no Republican opposition in the fall.

Scott said he would continue with the themes he has pressed in the primary campaign.

“This is going to be a campaign about the economy, making Vermont more affordable and restoring faith and trust in the political process,” he said. “I look forward to having discussions about this issues that face Vermonters and I think the economy is one that most Vermonters understand is very important.”

Minter praised her campaign team and said she looked forward to the fall. “I’ve got a great field staff. We’ve got wonderful volunteers and I think it’s really about my message to move Vermont forward. People want to hear about economic opportunity, education and a green economy.”

Competitive races for Vermont’s two top executive-branch jobs and in both major parties appeared to drive voters to the polls. Secretary of State James Condos said when all the votes were tallied, he expected they would number more than 100,000, or about 20 percent of the eligible voters.

“It really matters how competitive the race is and who the candidates are,” Condos said.

City Clerk John Odum said he was seeing it in the capital. In the 2014 primary, fewer than 570 of Montpelier’s roughly 8,000 residents cast ballots. That level of participation was surpassed by early voters before Tuesday’s Primary Day voting even began, Odum said.

The three Democratic lawmakers running for lieutenant governor were vying for a chance to face Republican Randy Brock, a former state senator and auditor, in the November election.

The governor’s office came open for the first time since 2010 when incumbent Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin announced in mid-2015 he would not seek re-election. Governors and other state office holders in Vermont serve two-year terms.

In a small state like Vermont, it remained clear that retail politics matters. Two voters among a handful questioned as they lined up to fill out ballots in Montpelier cited meeting a candidate in person as influencing whom they were voting for.

Emma Polen, 18, of Montpelier, said she had attended a meeting of Girls’ State, a program where young people get to participate in a model government. Ram spoke to the students and Polen was impressed. “She was really positive, well-spoken,” Polen recalled.

For Patrick Kelty, 60, of Montpelier, it was an appearance by Scott at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Rutland that won him over. “He answered all the questions people had,” Kelty said.

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