MONTPELIER — Sue Minter pulled out a comfortable victory over Matt Dunne in what was thought to be a hotly contested race for the Vermont Democratic Party’s nomination for governor, after a frenzied final week of outside spending and missteps by Dunne.
Minter, a former secretary of the Agency of Transportation, has about 50 percent of the vote with 268 of 275 voting districts reporting, a 13-point margin over Dunne, a former Google executive and Windsor County state senator. Peter Galbraith, a former diplomat and Windham County state senator, lagged far behind in third with nearly 10 percent of the vote.
The Associated Press called the race for Minter around 9:45 p.m. Dunne called Minter to concede soon after.
“We did this,” Minter told supporters Tuesday night. “I want to thank Matt Dunne and Peter Galbraith. I just got off the phone with Matt, who graciously congratulated me.”
Galbraith said he, too, called Minter to congratulate her on her victory and said his campaign helped push the campaign into more progressive territory.
“I always said that I was running not just to be governor but do something for Vermont as governor,” Galbraith said. “I won’t be governor, but with the help of hundreds of Vermonters all over our wonderful state our campaign made the Democratic primary more progressive.”
Dunne struggled in the final week of the campaign after seeking to “clarify” his position on wind power. He issued a policy statement saying wind turbines should be erected only if proposed host communities vote to do so.
That led to a backlash among environmentalists, with 350.org founder Bill McKibben withdrawing his endorsement of Dunne in favor of Minter. Vermont Conservation Voters, which planned to remain neutral in the primary, also opted to back Minter following Dunne’s policy statement.
Dunne also faced additional scrutiny after loaning his campaign $95,000 in the final week — after pledging on his campaign website he would not personally contribute more than the maximum $4,000 from an individual.
A primary-day rally in Burlington featuring Jeff Weaver, the campaign manager of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ unsuccessful presidential campaign, was not enough to boost Dunne.
Dunne sought to link himself with Sanders, touting his policies and even mimicking the senator’s campaign logo
Meanwhile, outside spending exploded in the final week of the campaign, adding to a flood of television advertisements.
Reid Hoffman, the billionaire co-founder of LinkedIn and Dunne’s personal friend, spent $220,000 on ads in support of Dunne. Minter also had outside help from two super PACs, one largely funded by EMILY’s List, an organization that supports pro-choice candidates, and another fronted by Vermont Conservation Voters, which had contributions from wind developers.
With the final blitz of advertising in the closing days of the campaign, both Minter and Dunne were nearing the $1 million mark in spending — the most ever in Vermont for a primary campaign.
Both Dunne and Minter spent well in excess of $300,000 on mass media activities in the past three weeks. Galbraith, who kicked in about $200,000 of his own money to his campaign, lagged with just over $20,000 in spending.
Tuesday’s loss was Dunne’s third on a statewide ballot. He ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2006 and came in fourth in a five-way primary for governor in 2010.
Two other candidates on the Democratic ballot, H. Brooke Paige and Cris Ericson, each received less than 1 percent of the vote.
Elizabeth Pearson, executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, issued a statement Tuesday calling Minter “a strong leader with a proven record of bringing people together and solving problems.”
“In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, Minter helped lead Vermont’s recovery by bringing in new business and revitalizing local communities. As governor, Minter will focus on growing the economy through continued investment in Vermont’s renewable energy sector and fighting for college affordability,” Pearson said. “Sue Minter’s plan will help build an environment where the middle class can thrive, and we look forward to supporting her as the next governor of Vermont.”
Minter now turns her attention to Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, who won his party’s gubernatorial nomination Tuesday. Minter said her campaign is prepared to take on Scott.
“I’ve got a great field staff. We’ve got wonderful volunteers and I think it’s really about my message to move Vermont forward. People want to hear about economic opportunity, education and a green economy,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.