Independent Bernie Sanders elected to Senate; Democrat
Welch beats Rainville
Updated 11/7/2006 8:33 PM ET
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) Vermonters, turning out in big
numbers Tuesday, elected left-leaning Bernie Sanders
to the Senate and also chose candidates for the U.S.
House, governor and a host of other statewide and
Sanders, an independent who describes himself as a
"democratic socialist," defeated Republican Richard
Tarrant in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. James
Jeffords, according to a statistical analysis of the
vote from voter interviews conducted for The
Associated Press and the television networks by Edison
Media Research and Mitofsky International.
RESULTS: U.S. Senate by county
Democrat Peter Welch beat Republican Martha Rainville
in the race to replace Sanders for the U.S.House
Representative, the survey concluded.
In the governor's race, Republican Gov. Jim Douglas,
55, sought a third two-year term highlighting his
"affordability agenda" to make health care, taxes,
education and housing cheaper. Democratic challenger
Scudder Parker, 63, ran a scrappy campaign questioning
why such an agenda was needed after four years of
Douglas in power.
Results in other contests were being counted in city
and town clerks' offices across the state, where
election workers said turnout was high.
"This is great," Assistant Williston Town Clerk Denise
L'Esperance, said as she surveyed the 39 voting booths
set up in a school gymnasium, where 1,645 people had
voted by 1 p.m ET. "It's wonderful to see the booths
completely filled. Look at those."
A lot of voters said they had been closely watching
events in Washington and it influenced their voting.
"I want to clean out the White House in Washington and
put some more people in there," said Vaughn Adams, 74,
said after casting his ballot in Berlin.
In Burlington, Democrat Steve Safner, 51, said
President Bush was on his mind when he voted.
"He got us involved in the war in Iraq, which he was
predetermined to do before he was elected, and now he
won't back down," Safner said. Safner said he hoped
his vote would help Democrats regain control of the
U.S. House and Senate.
Despite complaints about the tenor of candidates' TV
commercials, voters appeared to be engaged in the
weeks leading up to Election Day, turning out at town
and city clerks' offices seeking absentee ballots so
they could vote early.
In Burlington, the state's largest city, 15% of voters
cast their ballots early, Secretary of State Deborah
Markowitz said, but no statewide count was available.
"We're expecting a higher-than-ever absentee turnout,"
she said. Only two incidents had been reported to her
office of people not having the absentee ballots sent
to them, requiring a court order to allow them to
vote. "We were worrying about the absentees, but we
ended up really having very little problems with it,"
The campaign, which began in earnest in April 2005
when Jeffords announced his retirement, featured a
heated race for Jeffords' seat and a closely watched
campaign for the U.S. House seat being vacated by
Nearly 19 months later, voters had the chance to make
history by sending Sanders a popular eight-term
congressman who calls himself a "democratic socialist"
to the U.S. Senate. Sanders, a 65-year-old
independent, was favored to win election to Jeffords'
seat despite a bruising campaign challenge from
Republican businessman Tarrant.
Tarrant, 64, spent more than $7 million of his own
money on his campaign, most of it on television
commercials that took aim on Sanders, posing the
question "What's happened to Bernie?"
The ads, which underscored Sanders' votes on the Amber
Alert child kidnapping program, international
narcotics trafficking and sex offenders, were widely
criticized by voters and others because of their tone.
Sanders spent lavishly, too, putting nearly $6 million
into the race.
His decision to seek Jeffords' seat, meanwhile, set
the stage for what turned out to be a clean but
spirited campaign between Rainville and Welch.
Welch, 59, who is the state Senate president pro tem,
squared off against the 48-year-old former Vermont
National Guard chief in a House race whose combined
spending reached about $2 million.
The race, which party officials said was the only one
in the nation to stay positive despite being targeted
by the national parties, centered largely on the war
in Iraq and whether it would be better to have a
Republican or Democratic congressional majority to
The lieutenant governor's race got testy, too, with
Democratic challenger Matt Dunne, 36, questioning the
work ethic of incumbent Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, 47,
while his own voting record was challenged.
Progressive Marvin Malek also was on the ballot.
There also were races for secretary of state between
Markowitz, the incumbent Democrat, and Essex Town
Clerk Cheryl Moomey; for auditor among incumbent
Republican Randy Brock, Democrat Thomas Salmon and
Progressive Martha Abbott; and for attorney general
between Democratic incumbent William Sorrell and
Republican Dennis Carver.