Marthage, Schmidt fend off challengers in primary


This story was updated at 2:15 p.m. on Aug. 15, 2018.

BENNINGTON — The hard-fought Democratic primary battles for state's attorney and county sheriff remained close through late Tuesday night, but both incumbents finally managed to secure victories.

State's Attorney Erica Marthage held a slim lead of about 136 votes over challenger Arnold Gottlieb early Wednesday morning, according to unofficial vote totals posted on the Secretary of State's website.

However, the totals for that race were updated shortly before noon when Bennington results were adjusted. That change showed a loss of more than 300 votes for Gottlieb.

Town Clerk Cassandra Barbeau said a keystroke error in initially reporting the unofficial totals to the Secretary of State Tuesday night apparently counted Gottlieb’s total for one of the Bennington voting districts twice, giving him a lead in Bennington.

But in preparing the official totals for submission on Wednesday morning, she said the error was corrected, and the Bennington totals were verified as 935 for Marthage and 855 for Gottlieb.

The Bennington numbers therefore apparently added about 320 votes to Marthage’s lead countywide.

Both Marthage and Gottlieb declined to issue any definitive statement on the primary Tuesday night, citing the closeness of the voting.

Too early for champagne

In the race between Sheriff Chad Schmidt and Democratic challenger James Gulley Jr., Schmidt appeared to have a lead of about 400 votes with only Searsburg left to report.

But it would have been too early to break out the champagne in any case, as all four county office candidates apparently had secured second chances at the Nov. 6 ballot.

And independent candidates will be waiting for them on that ballot as well.

Gottlieb and Gulley both had also previously qualified for the November ballot as independents, and Marthage appears to have been nominated on the Republican ticket through write-in votes, which she encouraged among those taking the GOP primary ballot.

That latter possibility could not be verified Tuesday night, but there were a high number of write-in votes that remained to be counted. She needed only 50 GOP write-ins in the county to appear on that ballot line as well.

The two state's attorney candidates also will face another challenge in November. Christina Rainville, a former deputy prosecutor in Marthage's office, is running for her former boss's job. She submitted the required voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot as an independent.

In the county sheriff's race, Beau Alexander Sr., of Shaftsbury, also has qualified for the November ballot for sheriff as an independent, making that a three-way race.

Legislative races

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Elsewhere in Bennington County, David Durfee won the Democratic nomination for the Bennington-3 House seat now held by Rep. Alice Miller, of Shaftsbury, who also did not seek another term.

Durfee defeated fellow Democrat and Select Board member Tim Scoggins, 417 votes to 213. Both are Shaftsbury residents. Barring a write-in candidate, there will be no other candidates listed on the Nov. 6 ballot.

In the Bennington-1 House district, Pownal Select Board Chairman Nelson Brownell was alone on the Democratic ballot and received 276 votes in Pownal.

Brownell will face a November election challenge from Frederick Miller, of Pownal, who previously qualified for the ballot in the Bennington-1 race as an independent.

And Jim O'Connor sought to qualify for the Republican line for the House seat, pending results of the Pownal/Woodford vote where he needed at least 25 write-ins. There were 72 write-in votes cast in that race in Pownal on the GOP side.

Longtime Democratic Rep. Bill Botzow of Pownal did not seek re-election to the seat.

Qualified without opposition

In other primary races, county Sens. Dick Sears and Brian Campion were unopposed and won the two Democratic nominations for Senate.

They will face independent Jeff Kaufer, of Shaftsbury, in November.

Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington, and Kathleen James, of Manchester, won the two Democratic nominations for the two-seat Bennington-4 House district, while Rep. Brian Keefe, of Manchester, was nominated on the Republican ticket.

In the two-seat Bennington House 2-2 district, Rep. Mary Morrissey was nominated on the Republican side, while Rep. Kiah Morris was nominated as a Democrat. There are no other candidates on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The way forward is more complicated in Bennington 2-1, also a two-seat district.

Kevin Hoyt was nominated as a Republican and Rep. Timothy Corcoran II and Democrat Chris Bates were both nominated on the Democratic ticket.

In the fall, independent Michael Stern also will be on the ballot, running as an independent.

Democratic Rep. Linda Joy Sullivan, D-Dorset, won her party's nomination for another term in Bennington-Rutland-1. Barring write-in GOP candidates, she will be unopposed in November.

Two independent incumbents, Rep. Kelly Pajala, I-Londonderry, and Rep. Laura Sibilia, I-Dover, are already on the Nov. 6 ballot, having qualified as independents.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont and Email: @BB_therrien on Twitter.


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