Liveblog for Vermont's 2022 primary election
Vermont's primary election was Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022.
So why does that matter? While this isn't a presidential election year, the 2022 midterms will have a big impact on national politics. Vermont's senior U.S. senator, Patrick Leahy, is retiring after 48 years in office. And since Vermont's only House member, Rep. Peter Welch, is running for Leahy's seat, Vermont has an open spot in the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in 16 years.
As for why this primary election — versus the general election in November — is kind of a big deal, that's because the winners in contested Democratic primaries are likely to win the general election. That's according to Middlebury College political science professor Matt Dickinson.
"Well, nobody wants to prejudge a general election," he said. "And obviously, the voters ultimately decide. But you would have to be naïve not to know that in, for instance, Vermont — a predominantly blue state — that the nominee coming out of certain races, the Democratic nominee, is the odds-on favorite to win the general election. So really, where the competition is, where the key choice made by voters is, is the primary as opposed to the general election."
Find Vermont Public's primary election reporting and results below.
We've stopped updating the liveblog! Head to our homepage for more reporting and results.
State Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas is the Democratic nominee for Vermont Secretary of State after the race’s runner up conceded.
With 97% of precincts reporting, Copeland Hanzas has 43% of the vote to Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters’ 41%.
Winters said in an emailed statement that he called Copeland Hanzas Wednesday morning to offer her his congratulations.
- Elodie Reed
Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George won re-election last night, overcoming opposition from local law enforcement.
George beat Williston attorney Ted Kenney 53% to 33%. Kenney was critical of George's criminal justice reform practices, and vowed to be tougher on offenders. Local police unions rallied to Kenney's side.
But George won in every voting district in the county Tuesday, including some of the more conservative communities.
She will be the only major party candidate in the November General Election.
- Mark Davis
The Democratic primary race for the Vermont secretary of state seat remained close Wednesday morning, with state Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas leading Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters by two percentage points, or about 1,800 votes. The Associated Press hadn’t called the race with about 97 percent of the votes counted.
The results are mostly in, and the primary election brought in a few surprises.
In one of the most-watched races, state Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint easily won the Democratic nomination, with about 60 percent of the vote. Lt. Gov. Molly Gray had been viewed as the frontrunner earlier in the race. Only 7 percent of Vermonters planned to vote for Balint six months ago, according to a Vermont Public poll.
The two candidates had similar positions, but it came down to who connected with voters. This could be historic: If Balint wins the general election in November, she would be the first woman and the first openly LGBTQ person that Vermont sends to Congress.
Balint will face Liam Madden in November’s general election.
One surprise of the evening came in the Republican race for U.S. Senate. Gerald Malloy beat out frontrunner Christina Nolan, who styled herself as a Phil Scott type of Republican. Malloy tacked further right, saying he wouldn’t support any gun control measures and would support a national ban on abortion.
Malloy will face Democrat Peter Welch in the general election.
-Mitch Wertlieb and Liam Elder-Connors
Army veteran Gerald Malloy scored an upset victory for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate late Tuesday, edging out former U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan.
Nolan had been viewed as the front-runner for most of the campaign. But Malloy, speaking to reporters Tuesday, said he was confident he would win, citing voters' wish for a change.
"People are not happy with the direction the country's going in, and what we need is strong Republican leadership—and that's what I believe I offer," Malloy said.
Malloy, a Perkinsville resident, will face Rep. Peter Welch, who won the Democratic nomination, in the November general election.
- Liam Elder-Connors
Joe Benning will be Vermont’s Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in November general election.
He beat fellow Republican Gregory Thayer of Rutland. Benning said he believes his moderate approach and 12 years of experience in the senate representing Caledonia County resonated with voters, but he was cautious after Tuesday's win.
“I’m facing somebody who has far more name recognition, who has out raised me 10 to one. So the amount of work that is now staring at me is probably four times of what I’ve already put in,” he said.
- Nina Keck
David Zuckerman has secured the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.
Zuckerman, who formerly held the position of lieutenant governor for four years, declared victory this evening.
The organic farmer also served in the state Legislature for 20 years.
Zuckerman defeated former state Rep. Kitty Toll, nonprofit executive Patricia Preston and current state Rep. Charlie Kimbell.
- Brittany Patterson
Charity Clark has won the Democratic nomination for attorney general, the Associated Press declared.
Clark received more than two-thirds of votes in the primary race against Rory Thibault, the Washington County state’s attorney.
Clark, a former chief of staff in the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, is hoping to become the first woman elected to the office.
She's campaigned on keeping many of the same systems in place as former Attorney General TJ Donovan, her former boss.
- Kevin Trevellyan
Molly Gray conceded to her opponent Becca Balint Tuesday night in the race for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House.
At a watch party with her supporters in Burlington, Gray said she felt both profound disappointment but also profound gratitude.
“As I was preparing for tonight, I felt a sense of comfort and pride in how accessible, deeply personable and civil our democracy and elections can be,” she said. “This year has been one of historic proportions, as we know with the retirement of Sen. Leahy, and so many other Vermonters who serve our state. It has been inspiring to see so many people step forward to run for the State House, statewide office and yes, to run for Congress.”
Gray said she will always be proud of the choice she and other candidates gave Vermonters, and to be part of the conversation about the future of Vermont.
- Henry Epp, Matthew Smith and Elodie Reed
Becca Balint has won the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House, according to the Associated Press.
She's defeated Lt. Governor Molly Gray and Dr. Louis Meyers in one of Vermont's most closely watched primary races.
If elected in November, Balint will become Vermont's first woman in Congress, and the state's first openly gay member.
Currently the state Senate president, Balint positioned herself as the most progressive candidate in the primary race, with an endorsement from Senator Bernie Sanders.
- Kevin Trevellyan
The Associated Press has called its first few races for the 2022 Vermont Primary Election.
U.S. Rep. Peter Welch has won the Democratic nomination for the U.S Senate.
Welch took a commanding lead over activist Isaac Evans-Frantz and Dr. Niki Thran shortly after results starting streaming in.
Welch has served eight terms in the U.S. House. He's seeking to replace longtime Sen. Patrick Leahy, who is retiring.
In November, Welch will face former U.S Attorney Christina Nolan or Army veteran Gerald Malloy on the Republican side of the general election, along with former Vermont Progressive Chair Martha Abbott.
And three-term incumbent Gov. Phil Scott will once again appear on the ballot when voters head back to the polls in November.
The Associated Press called the race for the Republican at 8 p.m., with just 5.6% of votes counted.
Scott beat Stephen Bellows and Peter Duval to win his party's nomination.
During his time in office, Scott has focused on attracting more people to Vermont to counteract a shrinking workforce and aging population.
Scott will face Newfane activist Brenda Siegel in the November general election. She ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
- Kevin Trevellyan
(Meanwhile, the "seltzers are flowing" at Becca Balint's watch party in Brattleboro, according to Vermont Public reporter Peter Hirschfeld).
In Grand Isle County, there were no Democratic candidates on the ballot for state representative.
Instead, Grand Isle Democrats are rallying around two write-ins: Josie Leavitt and Annie Brabazon, who both decided to run after the deadline.
Among their supporters is Grand Isle resident Al Crist. One reason Crist is supporting write-in candidates: He's disappointed by how many bills Gov. Phil Scott has vetoed. Crist says more Democratic lawmakers are needed to override these vetoes.
“Currently we have two Republican representatives from Grand Isle County, and I would really like to see them replaced with two Democratic representatives to try to get a stronger, more veto-proof House of Representatives,” Crist said.
He says Leavitt and Brabazon needed to get at least 50 write-in votes today in order to get on the ballot for November.
- Joia Putnoi
All polling places are now closed in Vermont. You can watch as results roll in, here.
Many Vermonters were reading the news this morning that Mar-a-Lago, the Florida home of former President Trump, was searched last night by the Justice Department, allegedly to find missing White House documents.
Aaron Eaton is a Catholic voter from Rutland. He believes the Justice Department has become too politicized and has double standards. But he hopes Trump does not run again.
“I voted for Trump last time because of the issues,” Eaton said. “I think he was an excellent president on the issues. I’m not a fan of his personally. I would hope that he does not run. I would vote in a heartbeat for Gov. Desantis of Florida, but certainly would not vote for Joe Biden ever again if I had the chance."
Eaton says he's pleased the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, giving states the power to regulate abortion access.
- Nina Keck
Turnout is expected to be high for today’s primary election. According to Mia Costa, who researches political participation at Dartmouth College, voters are motivated by issues they care about. Those include climate and abortion, along with the near certainty of sending a woman to Congress for the first time in state history.
That’s what brought Houda Musanovic of South Burlington to the polls.
"We want to send women to Congress this time. It's time for Vermont to send women over there and that's my main reason for why I want to vote," said Musanovic.
But Costa says there’s another factor bringing people out to vote:
“In all states, more and more engagement is happening as partisanship becomes more motivating as a behavior in and of itself. People are really fueled up right now, so I think that will drive a lot of people to the polls,” she said.
In Colchester this afternoon, Lindsay Hudson was representing a candidate for state's attorney outside the town's polling place. She said she wants to see more humanity in politics.
"I want to see people that put humanity before power and prestige in politics. And I want to support good, strong women to get into leadership roles," said Hudson.
Nearby, Frank Canovatchel was handing out fliers opposing a measure on the ballot in November that would add a reproductive liberty amendment to the state's constitution.
"I want conservatives. I want pro-life people."
– Lexi Krupp, Mikaela Lefrak, and Henry Epp
While some Vermonters have national politics in mind, others are thinking about issues closer to home.
In Essex County, Roger Brown of Concord said he headed to the polls because he was worried about national and local issues that are impacting his family — like inflation.
“You know, I got a cousin—they’re elderly, they’re disabled, they don’t know what they’re going to do or how they’re going to heat their house this year. They’re going to have to cut back on food. They’re not sure how to balance that,” he said.
Brown said he thinks state government is guilty of "overreach" and has implemented too many regulations in areas like education and development.
Abby Pollender of St. Johnsbury said she placed having a personal connection with candidates above agreeing with each and every one of their policies.
“It's about who's approachable," she said. "We're in a small enough place in Vermont where I can call somebody and say, ‘this is what I think, why did you vote this way, or how would you vote on that?’”
Pollender said she was proud that two candidates for lieutenant governor, state senators Joe Benning and Kitty Toll, are both from the Northeast Kingdom.
– Erica Heilman
Voters around the state are casting their ballots. Some, like Margaret Dorey of Burlington, say it’s their civic duty.
“My dad used to say, ‘if you don’t vote, don’t b****!’” she quipped.
Other voters have specific issues in mind, like social justice, the environment, and democracy.
40-year-old Andrew Wild voted in Burlington's Old North End. He said climate issues are top of mind, along with housing and affordability.
“And I'm a teacher, so educational issues are also something that's really important to me,” he added.
Another issue bringing voters to the polls: the open races for the U. S. House and Senate.
Senator Patrick Leahy's decision to retire last year has created rare openings in Vermont's three-person Congressional delegation. That motivated Jason Tiballi of South Burlington to cast his ballot today.
"Doesn't happen very often in Vermont, so that's a big issue. That'll set the course for our candidates for a long time," said Tiballi. He said he'd like to see someone in the House seat who can work across the aisle.
– Connor Cyrus, Anna Van Dine, and Henry Epp
About half of the ballots in today’s primary election are expected to be sent in through early voting.
While early voting for the primary can be a somewhat complicated, many voters are getting used to the system.
“We did 187 absentees, and only two of them were defective,” said Kathleen Neathawk, a town clerk in Rockingham.
In Montpelier, just over 1,000 people voted early, compared to 435 early votes in 2018, and around 3,000 mail-in votes in 2020 — during a presidential election cycle and at the height of the pandemic.
Voters had to request early ballots for the primary, but the Secretary of State will send out early ballots to everyone for the general election in November.
- Howard Weiss-Tisman and Connor Cyrus
Vermont and Maine are the only states where anyone in prison is eligible to vote. In Vermont, that accounts for about 1,300 people.
Those in prison can request an absentee ballot from the town where they lived before they were incarcerated, explained Chris Barton, the restorative systems administrator for the Vermont Department of Corrections.
“The town clerk will mail them an absentee ballot and then they complete it, like any other Vermonter would,” he said. “They return it by mail back to the town clerk, like any other Vermonter would.”
People in prison don’t have the same internet access to learn about candidates, but they can watch local TV and read local newspapers.
“They’re hearing the same ads as they watch the local news that the rest of us hear,” Barton said. “They can watch the debates that are televised on the local television channels.”
He said that now volunteers are allowed in, he hopes to see more voter drives inside correctional facilities.
- Mikaela Lefrak
There’s been a lot of attention on Vermont’s U.S. House seat, and the possibility of sending a woman to Congress for the first time. (Vermont holds the distinction of being the last state to do so.)
But Senator Patrick Leahy stepping down has also opened up the door for a slew of younger candidates. That’s motivated some voters, like Emily Cuerdon, who voted in Bellows Falls early this morning.
“It’s totally cool to have older people, we just have a lot of older people,” said Cuerdon, who’s 27.
“When I’m looking at the faces in the Senate, and in Congress, they don’t look anything like me. They don’t look about my age. So I think it’s important to get younger people in there.”
A number of races, including a competitive state Senate race in Windham County, have younger candidates on the ballot.
- Howard Weiss-Tisman
More than 37,000 Vermonters already voted as of last week, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Voter turnout is expected to be higher than normal.
That's with an unusually large number of contested races this year. There's a rare opening in Vermont's Congressional delegation. At the same time, a large number of statehouse veterans decided to step down.
Some of these races could be decided by a couple of thousand votes.
- Bob Kinzel
Voting in Vermont’s primary elections is a little different than the general election.
Whether voting early or heading to the polls on Primary Election Day, voters receive three different ballots: Democrat, Progressive and Republican.
Voters have to choose one. As for the other two, they go in their own special envelope that then gets discarded.
- Bob Kinzel
In the final primary debate between Democratic candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives, Lt. Gov. Molly Gray lamented the role of super PACs in the race.
At least three outside groups have spent more than $1 million to support the campaign of state Sen. President Pro Tem Becca Balint.
Gray said decisions about the race should be left to Vermont voters.
“It’s not about outside groups and outside money trying to buy an election,” Gray said. “And we’ve seen it, right? We’ve seen it in our mailboxes, on television. The pro-Becca PACS are spending to win this race.”
Balint said she has no control over the super PACs that have been running television and social media ads on her behalf.
And she said her campaign has received more small-dollar donations from Vermonters than Gray’s has.
“There’s a real difference between the campaign that I’m running and that the lieutenant governor is running,” Balint said. “And I have the most Vermont donors donating to my campaign. I have by far the most small-dollar donors – thousands and thousands of small-dollar donors.”
Voters will head to the polls on Tuesday to pick a Democratic nominee for the first open congressional seat in more than 15 years.
- Peter Hirschfeld
Vermonters head to the polls tomorrow for the 2022 primary election. Are you ready to vote? Brush up on the issues, candidates, and more in our voter guide.— Vermont Public (@vermontpublic) August 8, 2022
P.S. If you're not registered, there's still time! Our voter guide has guidance on that, too ⬇️ https://t.co/RH7cURDvlA
Read/hear more of Vermont Public's 2022 election coverage:
- Vermont 2022 primary election: A voter's guide
- Why has Vermont never sent a woman to Congress?
- A Republican primary for lieutenant governor reveals a broader divide in Vermont GOP
- The evolution of early voting in Vermont
- Campaign wants Vermont anti-slavery amendment at forefront of 2022 elections
- Two Democrats tout leadership experience in bid to become Vermont's next attorney general
- Sianay Chase Clifford drops out of the race for U.S. House
- Vermont voters now have a 'cure' for defective primary ballots
- In Vermont primary campaign’s final month, donors flocked to Lt. Gov., AG candidates