Vermont voters love Gov. Phil Scott more than ever.
According to preliminary results from the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office, the 64-year-old incumbent was reelected to a fourth term on Tuesday with 69% of the vote — barely eclipsing his previous record in 2020 by less than one percentage point. Yet Scott’s margin widened further this cycle due to the low support for his opponent, giving the governor a margin of nearly 46 percentage points.
Preliminary town-by-town data released by the Secretary of State’s Office Wednesday afternoon showed that America’s second-most popular governor outperformed his Democratic opponent Brenda Siegel in every Vermont town.
The only governor to outperform Scott’s margin of victory in recent history has been Democratic Gov. Howard Dean in 1996, when he won 71% of the vote.
Amid a sea of Democratic statewide victories Tuesday night, Scott, a moderate Republican, was the most popular statewide candidate. U.S. Senator-elect Peter Welch won 67% of the vote, Congresswoman-elect Becca Balint 60%, incoming Attorney General Charity Clark 61%, Secretary of State-elect Sarah Copeland Hanzas 61%, Treasurer-elect Mike Pieciak 62% and Auditor of Accounts Doug Hoffer 61%. All are Democrats. In the tightest statewide contest, Progressive/Democrat David Zuckerman prevailed over Republican Joe Benning in the race for lieutenant governor 51%-41%.
“Vermonters spoke loudly, and clearly,” Scott said at his election night celebration Tuesday, shortly after his victory was declared. “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.”
Though he scored his highest percentage of votes this year, overall turnout for the governor’s race was lower than it was in 2020. Midterm elections typically see lower turnout, and Scott in 2020 was enjoying an all-time peak in popularity thanks to his response to the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the Secretary of State’s Office, Scott received more than 201,000 votes this year, compared to more than 248,000 votes in 2020.
In an infamously divisive era of American politics, Scott continues to sweep the polls despite Vermont’s left-leaning electorate. By the measure of President Joe Biden’s statewide margins of victory in 2020, Vermont is the bluest state in the nation, with 66% of Vermonters having cast their ballots for Biden (three fewer percentage points than Scott won in the same year).
Scott’s reputation as a moderate Republican has gained him notoriety on the national stage, but also won him the adoration of Vermonters. When former President Donald Trump was in office, Scott made a name for himself as a high-ranking Republican unafraid to disavow Trump’s politics and rising extremism on the right. In 2020, he was vocal about his decision to vote for Biden over his own party’s nominee.
He has also been called upon repeatedly to answer for the Republican Party’s persistent drift to the right, but has maintained that he thinks there is a place for moderates in the GOP.
In a pre-election poll first published with WCAX in October, the University of New Hampshire concluded that “approval of Scott’s performance is bipartisan.” Of Vermonters surveyed, 64% of Democrats, 62% of Republicans and 55% of independents said they approved of his job performance. The poll’s margin of error was 3.5%.
Scott has won year after year thanks in large part to ticket splitters. At the polls on Tuesday, voters of different stripes were quick to say they admire Scott’s deflection from the national Republican Party platform.
Cheryl Fischmin, a 43-year-old stay-at-home mom from Barre, referred to herself as a “liberal Democrat,” but said she voted for Scott on Tuesday.
“I just kind of went down and voted Democrat except for Scott, honestly,” she told VTDigger.
“I like that he's willing to listen, and I feel like he's willing to work,” Fischmin said after casting her ballot. “He stands for what he believes in, but he's also willing to work with quote-unquote opponents, or people on the other side. And I feel like he truly does do what's best… for the people of Vermont, rather than just being like a Trumpy Republican and on that bandwagon and not caring about people.”
And in a state with an overwhelming Democratic majority in the state Legislature, some generally left-leaning voters told VTDigger on Tuesday that Scott provides balance to the state.
Katie Holmes, a 42-year-old substitute teacher and events manager from Hinesburg, said she mostly voted for Democrats, but “it’s nice to have that other voice — sometimes.”
“Being a liberal, progressive state, I think it’s nice to have that juxtaposition with him,” Holmes said.
Polls have indicated that much of Scott’s base includes Democrats and independents. But Tammie Rubinate, a 64-year-old retiree from Barre, told VTDigger on Tuesday that she likes to support moderate Republicans — “not the real hardliners.”
She said she voted for Scott for governor, but also Democrat Peter Welch for the U.S. Senate.
“We know that Peter Welch definitely is for Vermont, definitely will watch out for the people on Medicare and Social Security,” she said. “I trust him.”
Simultaneously, she expressed admiration for Scott, citing his record during the coronavirus pandemic — “I don't see anybody that could have done a better job” — and the fact that he is “not a guy that's, you know, real flashy and stuff. But I like that.”
“He never backed Trump or anything, so even though he's a Republican, I feel like he's not voting party-wise. I think he's looking at the issues and what's best for Vermonters and that's what I rely on him for,” Rubinate said.
Lola Duffort, Paul Heintz and Riley Robinson contributed reporting.
Read the story on VTDigger here: Phil Scott won reelection by his widest margin yet.