"We ran Martha with the intention that she would step down," said Chris Pearson of the Vermont Progressive Party.
Progressive Party Chair Martha Abbott would win the gubernatorial primary election and then step down. That way the party could rally behind Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.
"We were not putting a lot of energy into making sure Martha prevailed, which is maybe why this problem arose," Pearson said.
The problem? Write-in candidate Annette Smith.
"If I'm in this, I am going to run to win. I am not in this to just be a seat warmer," Smith said.
The initial count of primary ballots shows Smith lost by just one vote. She says the Progressive Party needs to stand up as a voice against Shumlin in this election.
"Governor Shumlin has failed to engage with the public on issues that people disagree with him on," Smith said.
"I don't think the party will support either of them in an official capacity," Pearson said.
So why run when polls indicate their best shot is third place? Pearson says Abbott's run is a defensive tactic. The plan wasn't to win; it was to prevent other Progressives like Smith from running in the first place. Smith's write-in campaign was meant to send a message.
"This write-in effort really goes to the core of what people are feeling these days in terms of a real loss of freedom," Smith said.
Pearson says while she may have foiled the party's plan, he admires her spunk.
"While Annette Smith and that strategy was not one the party decided on, it's definitely in keeping with our spirit and why we exist," Pearson said.
The race gets election season off to a strange start as the closest competition so far is to be the last name put on the November ballot.
The Washington County clerk expects to have results by Friday or Monday. Martha Abbott refuses to speak to the media until the results are in.
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