The primary race for a Chittenden County Central district Senate seat is destined for a recount.
Unofficial Associated Press results for the Democratic primary show Erhard Mahnke just two votes shy of Martine Gulick’s 3,949. The candidates are vying to clinch the third spot on the Democratic side of the November ballot.
Sen. Phil Baruth, D/P-Chittenden, and Rep. Tanya Vyhovsky, P/D-Essex, secured the first two spots with 5,710 and 5,140 votes, respectively.
Gulick and Mahnke each received 16.4 percent of votes cast Tuesday, according to the AP results. Dawn Ellis finished fifth with 14 percent.
“Given that only two votes separate me from winning the Democratic nomination for the Vermont State Senate, I will in all likelihood be asking for a recount in the coming days,” Mahnke, a Progressive and longtime affordable housing advocate, wrote in a press release Wednesday afternoon.
The process could take weeks, said Josh Wronski, executive director of the Vermont Progressive Party, who is skeptical about the current count.
“So at this point I think we’re expecting a recount but I’m not at all confident that the results that are up right now are going to stay, because everything’s been moving so quickly and we’re still not seeing any results on the Secretary of State’s site,” Wronski said.
Because of a glitch on the website, state Senate races didn’t show up at all Tuesday night on the Secretary of State’s website, a problem that remained unresolved Wednesday.
Candidates have seven days following the election to file for a recount, according to Eric Covey, chief of staff at the Secretary of State's office.
According to 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.”
Gulick, a Burlington school board member, told VTDigger she is not calling for a recount but will wait to see how things unfold.
If Mahnke prevails, it would mark a significant victory for the Vermont Progressive Party.
The Chittenden Central district is considered a key battleground for Progressives to maintain influence in a Democrat-dominated chamber. Three of five incumbent senators affiliated with the Progressive Party are set to retire this year — Chris Pearson, P/D-Chittenden, Anthony Pollina, P/D-Washington, and Cheryl Hooker, D/P-Rutland.
As for the problems in posting the election results, “our vendor has, so far, been unable to correct the issue with a narrow subset of how Senate races are appearing from Election Night reporting, as a result of redistricting,” Covey said in an email today. “Our focus is on the process by which the Town Clerks submit their official returns of vote, and the certification of those official returns by the respective canvassing committees.”
Clerks have 48 hours to submit their official count, which is then certified by the county clerk's canvassing committee on Friday morning.
“We will have official results for all Senate and County races once they have been certified by the canvassing committees and transmitted to us. We will have official statewide results once they are certified by the statewide canvassing committee on Tuesday, Aug. 16,” Covey said.
Preliminary Senate voting numbers showed up briefly on the Secretary of State’s site after 9 p.m. but then changed, causing the Progressive Party to call the race for Mahnke.
“It was a pretty wild night,” Wronski said. “At one point, we thought we were ahead by 150 votes and that’s when we kind of announced that Erhard had won. Apparently there was some issue with the feed from the Secretary of State sending wrong results. … Then that got undone late in the night and it was back to a two-vote margin, which is kind of interesting.”
Five Democratic candidates campaigned for the new three-member Chittenden Central district, which 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 now one of four districts representing portions of Vermont’s most populous county — and by far the most liberal.
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