Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Milne on Monday held his first press conference last month’s election. And while he may not have gotten as many votes as incumbent Democrat Peter Shumlin, Milne is still hoping he’ll be Vermont’s next governor.
Scott Milne’s campaign for governor has been unconventional from the outset. He didn’t announce his candidacy until the last possible moment. He didn’t unveil any concrete policy proposals until the race was in its final weeks. And he really didn’t make much of an effort to capture the media spotlight.
And it all nearly worked for Milne, who fell only about 2,400 votes shy of unseating an incumbent Democratic governor who outspent him, four to one.
“One message of the 2014 election is that many Vermonters are distrustful of the incumbent,” Milne says. “They see his continued presence in the executive office as a detriment to getting our state back on track and to moving positively into the future.”
Milne’s gubernatorial campaign, as it turns out, isn’t quite over. Since no candidate captured 50 percent of the vote, lawmakers will select the next governor in a special secret-ballot vote next month, as the state constitution dictates.
Since abruptly canceling an event on the day after the election, Milne has postponed any formal announcement on how he’d proceed toward that legislative vote. Now he's saying he hopes his name will grace the majority of those secret ballots.
“The state’s finances are a disaster. We have recklessly invested in the idea that government can be everything to everybody,” Milne says. “I offer a diff way, a slower more careful approach.”
Milne won’t be making the hard sell however. He says he contemplated a more aggressive approach, including hiring a lobbyist, or busing in supporters to Montpelier to make the case on his behalf. He says he’d rather lawmakers make the decision for themselves.
“It’s their job to decide who’s going to be best for Vermont,” Milne says. “They need to look inward more than outward, talk to their constituents, talk to Vermonters, look at the record over the last four years.”
According to an analysis by the Vermont Press Bureau, if every legislator voted for the candidate who won their district, then the legislative vote would result in a 90-90 tie. But Democrats wield overwhelming control of both chambers of the Legislature, and in order for Milne to win, many of them would have to vote out an incumbent governor of their own party.
Historical precedent is also conspiring against Milne. While elections frequently result in no candidate getting a majority of the vote, lawmakers haven’t delivered the governorship to the second-place finisher since the early 1800s.
Milne does have some high-profile supporters, including the minority leaders of the House and Senate. And Rep. Paul Poirier, a left-leaning Independent from Barre City, says he’ll be voting for Milne, who carried his district by a 2-to-1 margin.
“I voted for the candidate that carried the city of Barre …. because I’m elected by the voters,” Poirier says. “If were to say, well the voters didn’t know what they were doing, well how could I argue they knew what they were doing when they elected me?”
Peter Shumlin said in a statement Monday that if he had finished second on Election Day, then he would have encouraged lawmakers to support the top vote-getter.
Update 4:27 p.m. This post has been updated to include expanded reporting and comments from Rep. Paul Poirier.