Final push for candidates ahead of Vermont primary election

  • Aug 3, 2022
  • Calvin Cutler
  • WCAX

WATERBURY, Vt. (WCAX) – Candidates are launching a final push to reach voters ahead of Vermont’s Aug. 9 primary election. But in this age of increased early voting, their tactics may have to change.

“They are doing everything they possibly can to get out the vote and raise awareness amongst voters about their campaigns. They’re doing all the retail politicking things,” said Elaine Haney, the executive director of Emerge Vermont.

Parades, candidate forums, house parties, honk and waves, door knocking, last-minute advertisements and political flyers in the mail, and back-to-back congressional debates Wednesday and Thursday on Channel 3.

The final get-out-the-vote effort is a big shift from the 2020 elections, where the pandemic dominated the campaigns. In-person campaign events were nonexistent.

Two years and thousands of vaccine doses later, the last-minute electoral scramble is back on, though campaigns are still holding virtual events and candidate forums.

“There’s been this appetite in our communities to get back together and get connected,” said Paul Dame, the chair of the Vermont Republican Party. “We’re also still supplementing with this new digital frontier that is still blossoming in the political world that came out of necessity two years ago.”

Unlike before the pandemic, more people are voting early or absentee. Nearly 52,000 people requested an early ballot this year. And 25,000 people have returned them to town clerks to be counted on Election Day.

That has a big effect on where candidates focus their resources and where they spend their money.

“When ballots mailed on June 25th this year, that meant there is well over a month of time where people are actively voting in the primary and candidates need to reach out to them,” Haney said.

That means candidates need to raise more money earlier to get their names out there sooner.

This primary campaign season carries more weight than in the past. Six of eight statewide seats are up for grabs and nearly one-third of Vermont’s state House and Senate seats.