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Shumlin In Front, But Race For Governor Still Too Close To Call

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Angela Evancie
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VPR
By the time Governor Peter Shumlin took to the stage Tuesday night he wasn't able to deliver the victory speech his Democratic supporters had come for.

An unexpected nail biter in the race for Vermont governor kept the candidates and their supporters up late Tuesday night. And while Gov. Peter Shumlin is well-positioned to win a third term in office, the race is still too close to call.

It was close to midnight before the Democratic incumbent took to the elevated stage set up inside the Hilton Hotel ballroom. And when he finally got there, Shumlin wasn’t even able to deliver the victory speech his Democratic supporters had come for.

When Shumlin spoke, he led GOP challenger Scott Milne by 2,200 votes, and held 46.4 percent of the vote to Milne’s 45 percent. And it looks like the lead will hold up.

"I feel very good about where we are right now. And we are going to let the votes be counted. Get some sleep, and come back tomorrow with all the votes in and continue to move forward." - Gov. Peter Shumlin

“So I feel very good about where we are right now,” Shumlin said. “And we’re going to let the votes be counted. Get some sleep, and come back tomorrow with all the votes in and continue to move forward.” Shumlin said. 

But Shumlin’s failure to crack the 50-percent threshold means the Legislature will pick the winner in January. Lawmakers are very likely to affirm the voters’ choice. But the narrow margin of victory points to political liabilities the second-term incumbent had to shoulder on the campaign trail this fall.

“We also know that as I’ve walked and traveled across this state since Sept. 1, talking to Vermonters, that we’re hearing a very clear message – that folks are frustrated, that they’re hurting, that with all the talk of economic recovery that’s going mostly to the top 1 percent, that too many Vermonters are still struggling to pay their bills,” he said.

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Credit Andy Dubak / AP
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AP
Scott Milne, shown here on Tuesday evening, said voters have issued a clear rebuke of the single-payer health care system Peter Shumlin has said he'll put in place if given a third term.

There weren’t many people left in the room by the time Shumlin spoke. And the diehards who did stick it out weren’t exactly in a mood to celebrate. Losses for Democrats in the House and Senate had long since taken the air out of the room.

Over at the GOP headquarters across town, however, Republicans were basking in the glow of exceeded expectations. Milne admitted that it didn’t look good. But he wasn’t ready to concede just yet.

“We’re going through numbers – it looks likely that we might end up on the short side here tonight,” Milne said. “But Fox has reversed their call – it’s too close to call, and there are some districts that are coming in.”

"We're going through numbers. It looks likely that we might end up on the short side here tonight." - GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Milne

And Milne said voters Tuesday issued a clear rebuke of the single-payer health care system Peter Shumlin has said he’ll put in place if given a third term.

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Credit Angela Evancie / VPR
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VPR
Libertarian candidate for governor Dan Feliciano, shown here at the Williston Armory on Tuesday afternoon, was on track to win slightly less than 5 percent of the vote. His presence in the race may have cost Milne a victory.

“What I believe is that the message of my campaign, which is we really need to slow down a little bit on being the most radical progressive state in the country every day,” Milne said. “We need to go back to our roots as Vermonters. Let’s focus on competently managing the people’s money.”

Libertarian candidate for governor Dan Feliciano was on track to win slightly less than 5 percent of the vote, and his presence in the race may have cost Milne a victory.

Shumlin will convene a news conference Wednesday to update supporters on the outcome of the race.

Read the live blog of all VPR's coverage on election night here.

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