Gov. Phil Scott cruised to a lopsided victory, easily winning a third term Tuesday over Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman.
Scott, a Republican, was declared the winner over Zuckerman, a Progressive Democrat, less than two hours after the polls closed. The Associated Press called the race with Scott holding a commanding lead of 68-28 percent with 40 percent of the vote reported.
Political observers and polls had predicted an easy win for Scott, who has earned high marks for his handling of the state’s response to the coronavirus. Vermont has one of the lowest infection rates in the country.
If the size of the lead holds, it would represent a landslide. Scott’s last win was by 15 percent and his first race, he won by about 9 percent.
A poll released by Vermont Public Radio and Vermont PBS in September showed Scott with a 31 percent lead over Zuckerman and even enjoyed an edge among Democratic Party-leaning voters, 48 percent-41 percent. More than 80 percent of Vermonters approve of his handling of the coronavirus response.
Scott thanked his supporters, family and cabinet members, including those who have helped on the coronavirus team. He recorded remarks in a motorcycle garage with three other people, a nod to the unusual times.
“I’m proud of how Vermonters have stepped up and met the moment. It’s because of you — your hard work, your compassion for others and your commitment to community — that Vermont has led the nation,” he said. “But, as I’ve said many times, we cannot let our guard down. And as we enter the winter months, we must remain vigilant. If we do, I’m confident we’ll continue to lead the nation and more importantly, keep our loved ones safe, our kids in school and emerge from this pandemic faster and stronger than any other state.”
Scott, a critic of President Donald Trump who voted for Democrat Joe Biden, called for the nation to heal “because we simply cannot go on like this.”
“Right now, we’re seeing a political system that defines anyone you disagree with as the enemy. The truth is, disagreeing about taxes, fees, regulations and programs, or which candidate to support — these things don’t make us enemies. A healthy democracy requires passionate debate, but it needs to be civil,” he said.
“When they become nasty, personal and, even worse, violent, that’s when our real enemies — those who don’t believe in core American values — gain ground. Because they use the distraction to fan the embers of hate, fear and division,” he added.
A subdued Zuckerman congratulated Scott and said he was ready to stand by him in the days to come fighting the virus as well as any uncertainty about the election “for our democracy, for the decency we represent in Vermont and that we can be leaders across this country if need be.”
In a speech he delivered from the Champlain Club in Burlington, Zuckerman, flanked by his supporters and campaign staff, said he would continue to fight for the issues central to his campaign, like increasing wages for workers, expanding broadband access and building out Vermont’s renewable energy sector to fight climate change.
In an interview late Tuesday, Zuckerman said he believed that the COVID-19 pandemic was an “overwhelming” factor in his loss.
Asked if another run for public office could be in the cards, the lieutenant governor said that “we’ve got time for that thought process, and family conversation, in the future.”
The moderate Republican governor was also outspoken in his opposition to President Donald Trump’s policies and reelection. In the end, Scott voted for Democrat Joe Biden.