Two candidates for statewide office are looking to turn write-in campaigns in the primary as a springboard into the general election. And Libertarian candidate for governor Dan Feliciano, and Progressive candidate for lieutenant governor Dean Corren, say Tuesday’s results signal widespread support for their candidacies.
Paul Dame, a 32-year-old Republican candidate for the Vermont House, spent a sunny Tuesday outside the polling station in his home town of Essex. But Dame had more on his mind than his own political fortunes – he’s among a growing band of Vermont Republicans who have adopted Libertarian candidate for governor Dan Feliciano as one of their own.
“I think Dan is really tapping into something,” Dame said Tuesday. “I mean three weeks ago, a lot of people didn’t even know who he was. And in a very short time with a very small budget, but a great message, he’s either starting a movement or starting a rebellion.”
If it is a movement, it’s still a very modest one. But unofficial elections results Tuesday night showed Feliciano might have taken a double-digit percentage of the Republican vote, despite not being on the ballot. His showing is thanks to a four-week-old write-in campaign.
Feliciano says he’s disappointed not to have won. But he says the results demonstrate a hunger among Vermont conservatives for an alternative to the winner of Tuesday’s GOP primary, Scott Milne.
“Hopefully this is a good enough showing to get me included in the major debates where I look forward to taking [incumbent Democratic Gov.] Peter [Shumlin] on toe-to-toe,” he said.
The Vermont Secretary of State was reporting only the raw number of write-in votes Tuesday night – the identities of those names won’t be available until later this week. But Feliciano was the only candidate waging a write-in campaign in the race. And he says he’s taking his fight onward into the general election, where he’ll be on the ballot as a Libertarian.
“We’re in this to win this whole thing,” Feliciano said. “We’re not here just to make a statement and raise the issues.”
In the other closely watched write-in campaign, Progressive candidate for lieutenant governor Dean Corren looked to be on track to garner at least a couple of thousand votes in the Democratic primary – far more than the 250 needed to earn the nomination.
Again, the names on those write-in ballots weren’t readily available Tuesday night. But Corren was the only candidate actively campaigning in that race. Some Democrats and Republicans had been urging voters to write-in the name of incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.
“It is encouraging to see the high number of write-ins, because we have been encouraging people to do that on the Democratic ballot,” Corren said Tuesday night.
Outside the Ward 1 polling station in Burlington Tuesday, flanked by three Democratic lawmakers, Corren spearheaded a group ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
“We’re here at the Ward 1 poll because voting is HOT! And stamping out ALS would be COOL!”
The bipartisan make-up of the soggy participants, however, was the real message Tuesday. Assuming he wins the Democratic nomination, Corren will now look to convince party faithful that he can be the “unity” candidate to take out the popular Republican incumbent.
“We obviously need a lot of people to do the work of getting the vote out in November,” Corren said. “We have an off year, and we need a lot more voters to come out in order to unseat an incumbent Republican.”
Corren will ask Democrats for a formal endorsement next month.