Three Vt. Democratic primary winners to run as fusion candidates

Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 6:19 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Friday is the deadline for Vermont political candidates to withdraw from the 2022 general election and for parties to nominate statewide candidates to fill spots on the November ballot. In some cases, that results in candidates having nominations from more than one party.

Susan Hatch Davis won the Progressive primary for governor earlier this month, but this week she withdrew from the race. The Progressive Party is now supporting Democrat Brenda Siegel for governor and she will appear on the ballot as a fusion candidate -- a Democrat and Progressive.

Siegel, along with Democrats David Zuckerman, and Doug Hoffer -- who also won their won Democratic primaries -- have also picked up the nomination of the Progressive Party for lt. governor and auditor respectively.

“We want to make it easy for people to vote in those elections and that leads to some quirks, to people being endorsed by multiple parties and appearing on multiple lines like that,” explained Jim Dandeneau, the Vermont Democratic Party executive director.

These so-called fusion candidates can be cross-endorsed by different parties -- Democrats, Progressives, Republicans -- or even a mix of all three. By state law, candidates can only petition to run in one party’s primary, but they can run active write-in campaigns in others. That’s what former Lt. Gov David Zuckerman has been doing for about a decade.

“That’s how you end up with D/R’s, D/P’s, P/R’s, P/D’s. At one time, Vince Illuzzi was an R/D/P, I believe,” Zuckerman said.

Progressive candidates rarely make it to statewide office, though they share many of the same policies as Democrats. The state’s election system requires candidates receive a plurality of votes. “This is about who captures the government for governing purposes. You need majorities to do that. Multiple parties make it harder to get to that majority. When parties work together in a fusion sense, they’re much more likely to be successful,” said Jack Gierzynski, a political science professor at the University of Vermont.

Progs don’t hold a single statewide seat and they only hold a handful of seats in the House and Senate. But Gierzynski says their tactic of running on a fusion ticket has had a big influence on moving the public policy needle to the left. “The Democratic Party in the state, overall, is quite liberal and they push policies that most Progressives are happy with,” he said.

Experts say with the fusion candidates all leaning to the left, it raises about what the state electoral system should look like and whether there should be more than two major parties. “The Democratic party is a big tent, we’re going to compromise to get stuff done but we want to accomplish good things on behalf of working Vermonters,” Dandeneau said. He says that includes a range of policy priorities including child care, housing, and climate change.