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Campaign 2014: The race for lt. governor - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Campaign 2014: The race for lt. governor

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BURLINGTON, Vt. - Incumbent Lt. Governor Phil Scott faces no challengers in his Republican primary -- and neither does his challenger, Progressive Dean Corren. But by the end of the day Tuesday, one of them could secure the official backing of the Democrats. That's one of factors leading analysts to call their race the most interesting in the state this year.

Democrats own state government in Vermont. They occupy the Governor's office and hold super majorities in both the House and the Senate. But without a candidate in the race for Lieutenant Governor, Tuesday's primary results could lead the party to back Republican incumbent Phil Scott or his Progressive Challenger Dean Corren.

"We're trying to get as many votes as possible," Corren said Monday.  Corren is mounting an active campaign for write-ins from Democrats, while Scott says his focus is solely on November's general election.  "I'm running against an incumbent for lieutenant governor. It's going to take two parties and a lot of people working together in unity in order to make that a success," Corren said.

"I think people are starting to get to know me and know that I'm balanced, I'm moderate and someone that looks at all sides and have a fairly independent voice," said Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.

Gov. Peter Shumlin and the state teachers' union endorsed Corren's candidacy, while Scott has the backing of several high-profile Democrats in the state senate and Burlington politics.

"I do think probably Corren has the edge in trying to get on to the Democratic ballot," said Republican Political Analyst Mike Smith. Smith says he expects Corren to have a P and D next to his name when voters go to the polls in November -- 250 write-ins are needed Tuesday to receive the Democratic nomination.

"If you're an organized candidate... and if you can get your people at the polls, it favors your campaign," said Democratic Political Analyst Steve Terry. Terry says Corren can rely on votes from the 850 donors who contributed to his public financing efforts earlier this year. He says a win keeps Corren in the race, but does not ensure victory. "Phil Scott is going to be very difficult to beat in November," he said.

"They will be evenly matched with money," Smith said. "There seems to be loyalties crossing party lines for Phil Scott. There seems to be a heavy organization effort with the progressives for Dean Corren."

Scott and Corren largely agree on the most-pressing issues facing Vermonters: health care reform, the economy and taxes, but differ on how to tackle those issues.

"We need to take a look at how we can make the exchange work," Scott said. "that's first and foremost." Scott says Vermont needs to patch its still flawed exchange which originally launched last October, before any transition to single-payer can take place. He says he remains skeptical but not opposed to a universal health care system.

Corren says the botched rollout shows the need for it, and promises simplicity when compared to the exchange. "You're a Vermonter -- you're covered," he said. "Everybody gets the same coverage package... and it's going to be a good coverage package."

"Show me how much it's going to cost, what it's going to look like... and how we're going to pay for it," Scott said.

Both candidates say Vermonters are feeling the pain of rising educational costs via ballooning property taxes. Scott suggests a focus on the economy next session, with all committees. "So those folks that are struggling to pay their property taxes, struggling to put fuel oil in their fuel oil tanks can get by," he said.

Corren says the state should cut spending and increase some taxes -- though he wouldn't say which -- to balance the books. He believes a switch to single-payer will leave Vermonters with more cash to spend, boosting the economy. "Vermonters believe they're over-taxed because people have been telling them they're over taxed," he said.

Corren has $200,000 from taxpayers to run his campaign after qualifying for public financing. Scott hopes to raise the same figure through private donors. Both sides see that difference as a campaign issue, but analysts say the issue most likely to lead to victory in November is much simpler. "I think it's likeability," Steve Terry said.

Polls open by 10 a.m. Tuesday  -- some as early as five -- and will close at seven. Write-in votes don't need to be spelled correctly in Vermont, but do need to be close enough for election officials to determine who the voter intended. Unofficial results for those on the ballot should be available late Tuesday night, but write-in results won't be available until Friday at the earliest.

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