Douglas wins re-election, capturing majority

11/05/08 12:11AM

Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas won re-election to a fourth term Tuesday, sewing up a race some thought might not be settled until January.

At issue: a state Constitution provision that requires the leading gubernatorial candidate to poll more than 50 percent of the vote. If no one did, the election would've gone to the Democrat-controlled state Legislature, where lawmakers would vote in secret ballot.

Douglas, a 57-year-old Republican, didn't get a majority in either of two recent WCAX-TV polls. In the latest, he had 47 percent.

But on Tuesday, he got the majority he needed. With 80 percent of precincts reporting, he had 55 percent of the vote. Independent Anthony Pollina had a narrow lead over Democrat Gaye Symington, both around 21 percent.

Douglas claimed victory before a crowd of cheering supporters at a Montpelier hotel.

"These are challenging times. That's obvious to everyone. I've been around the state, looking at the challenges Vermoners are facing - the unemployment rate that is rising, and perhaps will continue to, the need to provide hope, opportunity and prosperity for everybody, until we get out of this economic downturn stronger than ever," he said.

Vermonters, he said, "now expect everybody in Montpelier to work together to bring prosperity to the state."

Only once in the past century have Vermont lawmakers chosen the also-ran. In a 1976 race for lieutenant governor, the Legislature chose Republican T. Garry Buckley over Democrat John Alden in a 90-87 vote - even though Alden captured more votes at the polls.

Douglas, a savvy campaigner known for his fiscal conservatism, has fashioned a 13-1 record in statewide elections despite being a Republican in a left-leaning state. His opponents have criticized his record on economic issues, and painted him as soft on the troubled Vermont Yankee nuclear plant and its owners.

"I voted Democrat for everything, except Douglas," said Elizabeth Rodriguez, 46, of Montpelier. "I think he's done a pretty good job. I understand him. I understand what he's doing."

Symington, 54, a veteran lawmaker and outgoing House speaker, entered the race late and struggled to distinguish herself on the campaign trail and in debates.

Pollina, a 56-year-old Progressive Party member who switched his affiliation to independent midway through the campaign, is seen as a spoiler - helping split the anti-Douglas vote.

Also in the race were Liberty Union candidate Peter Diamondstone, independents Cris Ericson and Sam Young and Cheap Renewable Energy candidate Tony O'Connor.

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