In an election that saw few victories for Vermont Republicans, voters decided to stick with the Democrat status quo for secretary of state and attorney general.
After the primaries, lawyer Janssen Willhoit, a two-term Republican House representative for the Caledonia-3 district, was selected by the Republican Party to run for attorney general against incumbent Democrat TJ Donovan.
Likewise Republican H. Brooke Paige, who won six nominations in the primaries, including for attorney general, chose to face off against longtime incumbent Secretary of State Jim Condos, a Democrat.
But with voter turnout at record high levels in the blue state, neither challenger was able to gain traction. Condos defeated Paige by more than a 2-1 margin, earning 178,683 votes. Donovan beat Willhoit by a similar margin, garnering 187,093 votes.
Willhoit, an ex-convict, ran on a platform of criminal justice reform, saying he had firsthand knowledge of the shortcomings and expenses of the prison system. In particular, he took aim at the bail system, arguing that the standard $200 fee for a basic nonviolent misdemeanor is too expensive, because it results in many nonviolent offenders needlessly spending several months in taxpayer-paid incarceration.
Some in his own party disagree. Nevertheless, after losing on Tuesday, Willhoit said he’s grateful for the support of his GOP colleagues.
“They trust me even if maybe we fight on other things, they know they can count on me to be upfront with them,” he said.
Donovan, during his campaign, stressed the importance of getting some criminals into “alternative justice programs” which aim to give them a second chance without overburdening the conventional justice system. Such programs have become controversial — such as regarding the recent school shooting in Florida, where the alleged shooter was part of one of these programs that allowed him to avoid incarceration.
While Vermonters clearly favor Donovan, not everyone was thrilled with the results.
The people of #VT are truly clueless, and either not informed of the issues, or are truly corrupt at their core values. T J Donovan and #BankFraudBernie are only going to make things worse and drive people to NC, FL, OH, or TX… Say goodbye to once was #vtpoli
— CletusVanDamme (@CletusVanDamm15) November 7, 2018
Paige and Condos in their campaigns sparred over election integrity. Paige accused Condos of underestimating the prospects of voter fraud and called called for a purging of the voter rolls.
“If you talk to people on the street, 15 to 20 percent of the people that are out there, and probably 50 percent of those who don’t vote anymore, believe that there’s substantial voter fraud in the state,” Paige told True North before the election.
On voter integrity, Condos had sharply criticized President Donald Trump’s bipartisan election integrity commission, which has since disbanded under pressure from Democrats. Condos was a part of a coalition of states that refused to participate.
“The intention is still not to send any information to this commission because we believe it’s going to be used nefariously,” Condos told VPR last year. “We believe that what they’re trying to do is a form of voter suppression and that will reduce voter rolls.”
Condos also stressed the importance of allowing people to be able to vote with the greatest of ease. He praised the success of the motor-voter program, which may have worked a little too well, with many duplicates showing up on voter rolls, such as in Bennington County.
Other statewide office holders to win re-election included Treasurer Beth Pearce and Auditor of Accounts Doug Hoffer, both Democrats.