- Associated Press - Saturday, December 24, 2016

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid exposed a streak of progressivism in a swath of the American electorate, and the Vermont independent’s performance in the Democratic presidential primaries was voted the top story of 2016 in his adopted home state by Associated Press member editors and broadcasters.

The AP gathered nominations from Vermont news organizations that belong to the news cooperative, developed a list and asked journalists to rank the top 10 stories, using a point system in which each ballot’s top-ranked story got 10, the second-ranking story 9 and so on.

The Sanders story eked out its top ranking by 1 point over the October deaths of four Harwood Union High School students and a friend who went to high school in New Hampshire in a crash caused by a wrong-way driver on Interstate 89.

It was the second year in a row Sanders’ ambitions vied for top story with something much darker. The other contender for top spot in the 2015 rankings was Jody Herring’s alleged fatal shootings of three of her family members and state social worker Lara Sobel.

The other top stories of 2016:

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3. EB-5 SCANDAL: EB-5 is the federal program under which wealthy immigrants can get U.S. residency in exchange for investing at least $500,000 in development projects expected to create jobs. Developers Quiros and Bill Stenger were accused of misusing in “Ponzi-like fasion” more than $200 million raised from foreign investors.

4. GOVERNOR’S RACE: Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott’s victory over Democrat Sue Minter.

5. MARIJUANA: Efforts to legalize marijuana went up in smoke in the Legislature, as the Senate passed a bill but the House proved to be the buzzkill.

6. (TIE) WELL POLLUTION, SYRIAN REFUGEES: The toxic chemical PFOA was found in wells in the Bennington area, prompting a response by the state and the company believed responsible that included bringing in bottled water and, later, filters, for affected residents. And Rutland residents engaged in months of debate over Mayor Chris Louras’ plan to bring in up to 100 refugees from Syria and Iraq. The plan won approval from the Obama administration, but the election of Donald Trump as president has brought it into question.

8. LAKE CHAMPLAIN POLLUTION: The developments in what is expected to be a yearslong effort to reduce pollution in Lake Champlain and other Vermont waters. This year saw the issuance of new rules calling on farmers to step up efforts to control runoff.

9. GMO LABELING: Vermont’s law requiring labels on foods with genetically modified ingredients fell by the wayside in the face of congressional legislation pre-empting such regulations by individual states.

10. McALLISTER ALLEGATIONS: Sexual assault allegations against state Sen. Norm McAllister were dropped after one day of trial, due to the defense team’s successful efforts to undermine the main complaining witness’ credibility.

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This story has been corrected to show that four students were from Harwood Union High School, not five.


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