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Tom Evslin: Phil Scott (R) wins huge victory in dark blue Vermont, but a huger job lies ahead


This commentary is by Tom Evslin of Stowe, an entrepreneur, author and former Douglas administration official. His blog is here.

Ron DeSantis won newly red Florida by 19 points. Republican Gov. Phil Scott won reelection here in Vermont with an historic 47-point margin over his Democratic opponent. This was apparently the highest margin for any Republican governor in the country and a modern-day record for a Republican in Vermont. 

In 2020, Vermont was the first state to be called for Joe Biden and gave him a larger percentage of its vote, 66%, than any other state. 

The first U.S. Senate race called in the country last Tuesday was the election of Peter Welch (D) as Vermont senator. The Green Mountain State, home to Bernie Sanders, elected all Democrats to other statewide offices. Abortion rights were on the ballot here and won overwhelmingly. 

But none of this stopped Republican Scott from being reelected with an even greater margin than he had two years ago after leading the state calmly and excellently through the pandemic and being one of the first governors to terminate his own emergency powers.

Scott is scarcely a Trump Republican. As early as 2016, he made clear that he would not vote for the Donald even though he was his party’s nominee.  He spoke in favor of the abortion rights amendment to the Vermont Constitution. He has signed some tighter gun-control legislation as well as opposing some. He worked hard to prevent masking and school closures from becoming divisive social issues.

Scott is quoted in VTDigger: “Vermonters spoke loudly, and clearly. They want their leaders to focus on the economy, affordability and protecting the vulnerable. They want centrists, moderation and balance. They want us to be able to debate the issues with civility, seek consensus where possible, compromise when necessary, and agree to disagree when no compromise can be found.” 

Vermonters apparently also want some balance. Scott cast a record number of vetoes as governor. Amazingly, some were upheld even though Democrats and Progressives together had a “veto-proof” majority in both the House and the Senate. At the same time that Vermonters gave Scott his huge victory, they also increased the Democratic and Progressive majority in the House of Representatives and maintained an overwhelming left-leaning Senate majority. 

These majorities are why it will be very hard for Scott over the next two years. The Democrats and allies are already discussing, of course, the legislation they plan to pass without having to worry about a veto. This legislation includes potentially huge unfunded mandates, “environmental” legislation that will both drive up energy costs significantly and, in my opinion, be bad for the environment, and housing schemes that will result in higher housing costs and less availability of housing.

In the past there was some negotiation between the governor’s office and legislative leaders over potential legislation, since there was always a chance that a Scott veto would be upheld — as some were. With an even larger majority, there will be less inducement to compromise, and legislation will be more partisan and ideologically driven. Initiatives from the governor are not likely to receive much attention but are needed to provide positive solutions to very real environmental, workforce and housing problems.

Hopefully Vermonters will let their legislators know that they do want thoughtful rather than ideological legislating. Hopefully we’ll get the “moderation and balance” Scott talked about. And hopefully the rest of the country will, as well.

See also: Leadership in extreme disruption

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