This commentary is by Don Turner, a former Republican state representative from Milton, former House minority leader, current Milton town manager and longtime member of the Milton Fire and Rescue departments. He was a candidate for lieutenant governor in 2018.
As I wrote before the election, this was a very unique cycle in Vermont. The implications were even more far-reaching than I could have predicted. Here are a few top takeaways for Vermont policymakers.
1. Gov. Phil Scott is wildly popular
Voters approved of Gov. Scott's job performance with outstanding enthusiasm and elected to send him back by a 40-point margin, earning him the highest vote total of any governor in Vermont history. His opponent won just four out of 251 towns. Some attribute this to the Governor's outstanding handling of the COVID-19 crisis — but Gov. Scott was among the most popular governors prior to the present pandemic. Vermonters trust his steady hand at the helm of state government, his focus on balance and his commitment to affordability. If there ever were a mandate from a Vermont election, it would be Gov. Scott's re-election.
2. The status-quo in the legislature was rejected
In January, we'll have a new president pro tem, a new lieutenant governor, a new speaker of the house, a new progressive caucus leader in the House and well-more than a dozen incumbents sent home by voters. Clearly, under the Golden Dome, Vermonters weren't happy. Overall, Vermont Republicans will see a net gain of four in the House and a net gain of one in the Senate. Vermonters wanted more balance, and they'll get it in January. The Democrats have lost their supermajority in the Legislature.
3. Big-P progressives lost out
The Vermont Progressive Party must seriously be re-evaluating its strategy after this election. Not only did it fail to make gains in the legislature, but the Progressive lieutenant governor and Progressive-Democrat president pro tem were replaced with pure Democrats. The progressive Ccaucus leader in the House lost. One might seriously consider whether their unspoken alliance with the Democrats for major offices is working out in their favor — or if it's just bolstering the Vermont Democratic Party.
Whatever way you slice it, this was a significant election with important consequences for our state's future. But overall, Vermonters have shifted control of the state in a more balanced direction. We can only hope our state leaders are up to the task.