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Zuckerman to face incumbent Scott in Vermont governor’s race

August 12, 2020 GMT
FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2019, file photo, Republican Gov. Phil Scott speaks at a news conference in Essex Junction, Vt. Scott is running for reelection as governor of Vermont. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2019, file photo, Republican Gov. Phil Scott speaks at a news conference in Essex Junction, Vt. Scott is running for reelection as governor of Vermont. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2019, file photo, Republican Gov. Phil Scott speaks at a news conference in Essex Junction, Vt. Scott is running for reelection as governor of Vermont. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring, File)
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FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2019, file photo, Republican Gov. Phil Scott speaks at a news conference in Essex Junction, Vt. Scott is running for reelection as governor of Vermont. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring, File)
1 of 7
FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2019, file photo, Republican Gov. Phil Scott speaks at a news conference in Essex Junction, Vt. Scott is running for reelection as governor of Vermont. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring, File)

Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman won the Democratic nomination for governor Tuesday and now faces incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Scott, whose handling of the state’s coronavirus pandemic has been been widely praised.

Zuckerman defeated former education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe and two lesser known Democratic candidates. Scott cruised to his party’s nomination to seek his third, two-year term as the state’s governor.

In remarks after his victory distributed by his campaign, Zuckerman, a 48-year-old Hinesburg farmer, thanked Scott and his administration for their work fighting the pandemic and working to keep Vermonters safe.

“But as we look toward emerging from this crisis — we must lead in a new way. We must lead in a creative way,” Zuckerman said. “We must lead in an inclusive and innovative way. Because if we only focus on what is happening right now, we will miss opportunities to build a stronger, better, and safer Vermont.”

Scott, 62, who didn’t hire staff or actively campaign during the primary, easily defeated four little-known Republican challengers to win his party’s nomination to run in the November General Election.

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In an email to supporters after his victory Tuesday, Scott said his reasons for running for governor hadn’t changed since his first run four years ago.

“I love Vermont and I believe, with leadership that listens, it can be an even better place to live, raise a family and grow a business,” he said.

Holcombe, 53, of Norwich, served as education secretary for four years under former Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. She continued in the position when the Scott administration took office in January 2017, but resigned in March 2018.

Holcombe said Tuesday that she spoke with Zuckerman and offered him her congratulations. Despite her loss, she said the campaign showed the need to keep working to address the challenges facing Vermonters such as ensuring everyone has an equal opportunity for economic advancement and protecting the environment.

“I love this state and I am so grateful to everybody who shared their story and believed in me,” Holcombe told The Associated Press.

The other two Democratic primary candidates were Bennington attorney Patrick Winburn and activist Ralph “Carijou” Corbo, of Wallingford.

When Scott announced his reelection plans in May, he said he would not hire staff or actively campaign until the end of the state of emergency he imposed in March to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite various policy differences with the Democratically controlled Legislature, he is seen as popular with the public.

Scott was challenged by GOP candidates Douglas Cavett, of Milton; John Klar, of Brookfield; Bernard Peters, of Irasburg; and Emily Peyton, of Putney.

Two perennial candidates, Cris Erickson, of Chester, and Boots Wardinski, of Newbury, are running as Progressives.

A record number of more than 150,000 Vermont voters requested early or absentee ballots ahead of the primary under a special system set up to encourage safe voting during the coronavirus pandemic, Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos said on Monday.

A number of Vermont communities offered drive-through voting. In Barre, voters cast their ballots at the Civic Center, a portion of which serves as an ice rink in the winter.

Voters drove into the arena, getting a ballot from a worker handing them out at the entryway, then parked in the middle, turned off their vehicles and filled out their ballots. They then exited at the other end where an election official helped them deposit the ballots into the voting machines from their vehicles.

Condos said his office’s election night reporting system will be up and running Tuesday and will be reporting votes as towns report them to his office. Official results won’t be available for a week.

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AP reporter Lisa Rathke contributed to this report from Barre, Vermont.