The envelope, please

On Tuesday, Aug. 24, Vermonters will head to the polls to nominate candidates for a variety of public offices, who will then in turn compete in November's general election. Having the primary election earlier than usual is, we think, unfortunate. The end of August is not typically a time when many voters are closely focused on politics - they're on vacation, thinking about getting the kids back to school, or just enjoying the end of the summer. The effect of the earlier than usual voting will in all likelihood be to drive down the already low levels of voter participation, giving advantages to the more partisan candidates and those better financed and organized. Getting one's supporters to the polls will be the name of this game, even more so than normal. Given the five-way race going on among the Democrats for the governor's nomination, it could easily mean that the nominee will wind up needing as few as 20,000 or so votes to clinch the nomination.

That said, The Journal would like to offer our endorsements of candidates we've either met in person or followed as closely as we could from a distance. Each election year, we are always impressed by the caliber of citizens who step forward to be vetted by the electorate for the important posts they seek. Win or lose, we congratulate all of them for trying and taking part in the great exercise of democracy. The least the rest of us can do is to try and pay attention.

For Governor: (Democrat): Susan Bartlett. While we don't agree with all her prescriptions for Vermont, we like her no-nonsense, straightforward style. Her idea of an office of patents and a stress on intellectual property is one of the few original ideas we've heard, and her experience as the head of the state Senate Appropriations Committee gives her a good vantage point to understand the state's economy and the government's role in it.

On the Republican side, Brian Dubie is the winner by default, but we think he may prove a more difficult target than some Democrats expect. We look forward to a vigorous debate and election campaign for the state's top job.

Lt. Governor: (Democrat): A tough call. Both Steve Howard and Christopher Bray are thoughtful and motivated candidates. On balance, we'll give our nod to Mr. Bray, who has a strong track record of legislative leadership.

Lt. Governor: (Republican): Another tough call. Both Phil Scott and Mark Snelling offer compelling narratives and reasons to support them. After some amount of reflection, we're going to go with state Senator Phil Scott here. Being willing to be one of just four senators to vote in favor of Vermont Yankee earlier this year shows grit and courage. Mark Snelling has an interesting background, but a term or two in the statehouse would strengthen him further.

Secretary of State: Readers of the online Journal's website already know the answer to this one, and we encourage readers to go visit the opinion section and read the fuller version that appears there. Unlike in recent years, this race has been full of passion and interest.

On the Democrat side, we like Charles Merriman over Jim Condos.

For GOP voters, we'll make no bones about it - we're big fans of Jason Gibbs who is in a spirited primary battle with Williston attorney Chris Roy, who has also shown himself to be a tough and worthy competitor. If Gibbs prevails, we hope Roy returns to the political arena in 2012 - we could easily see him as a future leader in the statehouse. But for now, Gibbs has the edge in experience for the state secretary job.

State Auditor: (Democrat) We don't feel we know enough about either Douglas Hoffer or Edward Flanagan to make an endorsement at this time.

U.S. House of Representatives: (Republican) We like Paul Mitchell, a former Danby resident. The former CEO of Vermont Marble would provide a real ideological contrast to incumbent Democrat Peter Welch.

U.S. Senate (Democrat): Patrick Leahy is going to be the inevitable winner, but we liked some of the spunk shown by Daniel Freilich, who has clearly done his homework, is not a frivolous seeker of the media spotlight and who is apparently going to run as an Independent in the General Election. Meanwhile, Republican Len Britton is an attractive, articulate candidate - one we think Leahy would be wise not to take lightly.


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