How the Vt. GOP hopes to win back voters after losing ground at Statehouse
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Election Day was a mixed bag for Vermont Republicans. While the popular Republican incumbent Gov. Phil Scott won a resounding victory, Republicans lost ground at the Statehouse.
“We’re seeing less of that trend in Vermont where people vote the person over the party in some of those down-ticket races,” Vt. GOP Chair Paul Dame said.
Republicans held onto their seven seats in the 30-member Senate but won just 38 seats in the 150-member House.
Democrats and their allies now have 107 seats, meaning they can more easily override vetoes from Gov. Scott.
Dame says candidate recruitment efforts this cycle fell short and only 88 out of 150 seats in the House were contested.
“We didn’t recruit candidates in places where we should have been able to,” he said.
That includes districts where Republican incumbents stepped back.
Dame also suspects Prop 5, the Reproductive Liberty Amendment to the Vermont Constitution, drove Democrats and independents to the polls. And he says reapportionment favored Democrats.
Political scientists say national politics is also playing an emerging role in local races.
“People in Vermont when they see candidates for federal office from the Republican Party, they start thinking of the national Republican Party and that hurts Republicans in Vermont where the national party is unpopular,” Middlebury College Political Science Professor Bert Johnson said.
Once again, Scott was the only Republican to win a statewide or federal office, this time by his largest margin yet.
Dating back to his time in the Senate, Scott says he’s been able to work across the aisle.
“Bipartisanship is a great term but it’s a two-way street, it can’t be a one-way street. You need bipartisanship on both sides regardless of the numbers,” Scott said.
Dame agrees and acknowledges that the party needs to move away from former President Donald Trump. He says fielding more moderate candidates who will gain support from more Vermonters will be key.
“It’s going to require individual party members getting away from personality and back to policy,” Dame said.
With Trump making another run at office, time will tell what kind of traction he receives, but experts say one thing is for sure, Vermont candidates who align themselves with the former president will face hurdles.
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