Sorrell Wins ; Donovan Says It Looks Like He Fell Short

08/29/12 7:34AM By John Dillon
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AP/Toby Talbot
Attorney General Bill Sorrell campaigned in Burlington.

Incumbent Bill Sorrell clung to a slim lead over challenger T.J. Donovan in a closely fought Democratic primary for attorney general.

Sorrell was ahead by about 625 votes with 96 percent of the vote counted in unofficial returns.

Donovan initially was not willing to concede the race. But he came close to that on Wednesday morning. "It looks like we may fall just a little short," Donovan said on the Mark Johnson Show on WDEV, according to The Associated Press.

This summer's primary contest was the first real challenge Sorrell faced in his political career.

"This is more a marathon than a sprint, and we've got about a mile or so more to run, and I'm feeling great!" Sorrell told supporters.

He was appointed to the post in 1997 by Governor Howard Dean, and faced little opposition in his re-election efforts.

As Sorrell thanked his supporters gathered at a Burlington hotel, he said the primary was a grueling ordeal that showed the true test of friendship.

"I want you to know that in a fight like this, you find out who your friends are," he said. "And I will never, ever forget what you've done for me and what you're doing for me right now."

T.J. Donovan tried to turn Sorrell's long tenure in office into a liability, and he campaigned hard on a "time for a change" theme. Donovan, who is the Chittenden County state's attorney, won the endorsement of unions, prominent newspapers, and influential lawmakers.

The labor endorsements and a strong field organization clearly boosted his underdog candidacy, which Donovan acknowledged.

"I want to thank all the labor organizations that stood with me," he said. "And we've got a message to the rest of the state and to the rest of Vermont. Labor matters in Vermont!"

As the vote tally showed a virtual dead heat through much of the evening, the challenger said he would not give up.

"So, I don't know where this is going to go tonight," Donovan said. "But I'm not ready to concede. Not when you start down 26 points, not with a week to go - you're down 20 - we're in this, we're going to win it, stay with me till we make history, guys! Thank you so much!"

The two Democrats had very few real differences on the issues. But the campaign was marked by testy clashes over the role of outside money and a controversy over early voting.

The campaign also divided prominent Democrats, with Sorrell getting the backing of former Governor Howard Dean and Donovan winning the support of former governor Phil Hoff.

AP/Toby Talbot
Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan made a final push for votes in Burlington Tuesday.


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