Recount affirms Martine Gulick’s victory in Chittenden Central state Senate race

Martine Gulick observes a recount in the Chittenden County Central district Senate race between herself and Erhard Mahnke in Burlington on Friday, Aug. 19. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

BURLINGTON — Martine Gulick edged out Erhard Mahnke by four votes in a recount to finalize the Democratic lineup for the Chittenden Central state Senate district.

Gulick beat Mahnke, 3,948 to 3,944, according to the recount undertaken on Friday. Her lead over Mahnke grew by two votes compared to the original tally after the Aug. 9 primary.

“I am feeling good about the recount and I’m feeling really fortunate to have been able to witness the process,” Gulick said. 

Tabulators count ballots. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Although Mahnke offered his congratulations to Gulick and thanked volunteers for the time they put into the recount, he signaled he may not be done with the race.

Friday’s recount at Chittenden County Superior Court revealed 21 defective ballots, and Mahnke may ask a judge to review them and potentially revise the count, he said.

“(I’m) not sure that's gonna change anything, but given that number of spoiled ballots in that small margin, we’d like to take a look at those,” Mahnke said.

Gulick said that she feels positive about her win and supports Mahnke’s right to bring the ballots before a judge.

It was not clear Friday afternoon what such a process would entail. A message sent to the Secretary of State’s Office was not immediately returned.

Mahnke and Gulick were vying to clinch the third spot on the Democratic side of the November ballot after Sen. Phil Baruth, D/P-Chittenden, and Rep. Tanya Vyhovsky, P/D-Essex, were the top two vote-getters in the Aug. 9 primary. 

Mahnke, an affordable housing advocate, requested the recount after finishing fourth behind Gulick, a former Burlington school board member, by two votes.

Erhard Mahnke observes the recount. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

The three candidates will face more competition in November. Last week, Infinite Culcleasure joined the race as an independent

The new three-seat district is made up of Burlington's New and Old North Ends; Winooski; a sliver of Colchester; all of Essex Junction; and parts of Essex town. It is the most liberal of four districts that cover Chittenden County.

Chittenden County Superior Court in Burlington saw a flurry of action this morning as the site of the recount. Three boxes of picked-over Dunkin’ donuts and an equal number of depleted coffee containers sat outside of the small rectangular room where the counting took place. 

Two feet beyond the door frame, a strip of blue painters tape marked a barrier between the ballot counters and observers. To maintain integrity of the recount, observers were not allowed to cross the blue threshold. Gulick and her attorney sat to one side of the door, with Mahnke and his attorney on the other. 

Donuts and coffee fuel the recount. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Beyond the tape, the room was a sea of salt-and-pepper hair as county employees and volunteers assisted in the recount. Everyone had their designated job and worked ferociously in their role. 

“I’ve never done a recount before, so not only do I have a stake in it, but I’m finding it fascinating to watch,” Gulick said Friday morning. Had the situation been reversed, she, too, would have requested a recount, she said. 

At the conclusion of the counting, county clerk Anne Williams certified the recount.

Under Vermont law, state Senate candidates can request recounts “if the difference between the number of votes cast for a winning candidate and the number of votes cast for a losing candidate is two percent or less of the total votes cast for all the candidates for an office, divided by the number of persons to be elected.”

According to Gulick, each candidate had to provide 15 volunteers to assist in the recount. Their goal: settle the primary vote once and for all, ahead of the November election. 

Auditi Guha contributed reporting.

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Kori Skillman

About Kori

Kori Skillman recently earned a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, with a focus on visual craft and short documentary. She also holds degrees in journalism and international business from San Diego State University. Kori worked this year as a press intern at the New York County District Attorney’s Office.

Email: [email protected]

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