Vermont’s 2014 gubernatorial election appears headed for a decision in 2015, with incumbent Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin holding a narrow lead over Republican Scott Milne but not the majority needed to keep the decision from going to the Legislature. With all but a handful of precincts reporting early Wednesday, Shumlin had won about 47 percent of the vote. Milne had about 45 percent, with five other candidates accounting for the balance. Under Vermont’s Constitution, if no candidate for governor, lieutenant governor or treasurer gets an outright majority, the election goes to the Legislature Democrats are expected to maintain control of both houses, but the Legislature nearly always chooses the plurality winner in a gubernatorial election — the last time it didn’t was in 1853. That’s happened 23 times before — including in 2010, when Shumlin got 49.5 percent of the vote to 47.7 percent for the Republican, then-Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie.
Milne, who didn’t enter the race until late spring and whose campaign fundraising was dwarfed by Shumlin’s, appeared early in the campaign to be a long-shot underdog. But Shumlin’s own fortunes appeared to sag under the technical problems suffered by the Vermont Health Connect website his administration launched 13 months ago under the Affordable Care Act. He also came under fire from critics who charged he took advantage of a poor and intellectually limited neighbor in a land deal in 2013.
Milne said his near defeat of Shumlin — he might have won if conservative Libertarian Dan Feliciano, the third-place finisher, hadn’t garnered 4 percent of the vote — was “a referendum on Peter Shumlin’s leadership of the state over the past four years.” He called on the Democrat to change course if he continues in office.