Election Day is finally upon us. And here in Vermont, at least, the big electoral suspense is the neck-and-neck race for governor.
The two leading candidates, Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and Democrat Sue Minter, have spent a frenetic last few days on the campaign trail, making their final cases to voters.
It’s a little after 4 o’clock on Sunday at the Zero Gravity Brewery in Burlington, and the Democrats packed into this Pine Street establishment are in good spirits. The lagers and IPAs they’re drinking down might have something to do with it. But there’s a collective sense of optimism about an election they’ve spent the last year working toward.
“The last few days have been very exciting. I feel tremendous momentum. I obviously feel buoyed by the many endorsements I’ve received,” says the woman seeking to be Vermont’s next governor.
This stop is only the latest in a hectic jumble of late-race appearances that includes 14 stops in eight counties over three days. Minter has remained faithfully on message throughout this marathon campaign, and she’s got a finely-honed pitch to voters in the hours leading up to Election Day.
“I am ready for the job,” Minter says. “I have the experience of managing our government, [a] large agency. I have managed through a crisis. I am ready to go on day one.”
If you haven’t seen a gubernatorial candidate in person over the last week or so, you’ve almost certainly seen their faces on television, or on postcards arriving in your mailbox.
Outside groups have pumped $1.2 million into political ads in the last 10 days alone. All told, outside groups have dropped more than $5 million on the race in Vermont. And that doesn’t include the nearly $4 million the candidates have raised themselves.
The dollar figures reflect the high stakes in a race between two candidates with starkly different visions for the state of Vermont. Scott acknowledged as much at a campaign stop in the parking lot of a Dodge dealership on Shelburne Road in South Burlington on Monday evening.
“Well, I think it’s about the direction of the state, literally,” Scott says. “My feeling is that we have to address the affordability issue that we face, we have to focus on the economy.”
It was the thirteenth stop on a campaign swing that began at 4:30 a.m. Monday and took the GOP candidate through all 14 counties in a single day.
“Fourteen’s my lucky number – my race car number, 14 counties in the state, so we’ve gone out for 14 hours, 14 counties, 14 minutes in every county,” Scott says.
What happens at the ballot box on Tuesday could define the public policy agenda in Montpelier for the foreseeable future. A Minter administration would see a push for a $12.50 minimum wage, paid family leave, tuition-free technical and community college and, possibly, publicly-financed health care for young adults.
Scott, meanwhile, has vowed to reject any proposal that increases taxes or places new financial burdens on businesses. And he’s pledged to hold state spending to levels unseen in the past six years.
Voters seem to understand the gravity of the choices they face today. According to Secretary of State Jim Condos, early voting is on pace to near the record numbers Vermont saw in 2008.
“We think it’ll be a fairly strong turnout,” Condos says.
Polls close at 7 p.m. on Tuesday evening, but election-night watch parties might have to go late, if folks are intent on sticking it out until Vermont’s race for governor has a winner.
“And that one may not be finalized until … the next day,” Condos says. “It could be a really close race.”
The only two published polls conducted in the governor’s race this year showed the race to be deadlocked.