MONTPELIER — Sen. David Zuckerman pulled out a victory in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor over House Speaker Shap Smith.
The three-way Democratic primary, which included Burlington Rep. Kesha Ram, remained fairly close late Tuesday night with Zuckerman holding a 3,000 vote lead over Smith. With 268 of 275 voting districts reporting, Zuckerman has a 43 percent to 37 percent edge, according to unofficial results posted by the secretary of state’s office. Ram is far behind with nearly 17 percent of the vote and conceded defeat.
The Associated Press, however, called the race for Zuckerman at 10:16 p.m. “I won the Democratic primary,” Zuckerman told supporters Tuesday night, citing the AP.
Zuckerman, who serves as a Progressive for Chittenden County in the Senate, may have been buoyed by a late endorsement from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose presidential campaign gave a strong challenge to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Zuckerman received the endorsement late last week from Sanders, who won 86 percent of the vote in Vermont’s presidential primary in March.
In remarks to his supporters Tuesday, Zuckerman made clear that Sanders was a major part of his victory.
“We all have been fighting for someone else for the last year plus,” Zuckerman said. “Who is that person?”
“Bernie,” the crowd chanted.
Zuckerman said Sanders was “what got me involved in electoral politics back in 1992.
“Look at what he’s done. We have to carry on that legacy here,” he added.
He also thanked Smith and Ram for the campaigns they ran.
“They’re outstanding folks who worked really hard,” Zuckerman said. “I do want to give them a big round of applause for the campaigns they ran tonight.”
Zuckerman might also have been lifted by an earlier start to the campaign. He entered the race in December, months before Smith, who initially launched a bid for governor last summer before withdrawing in November as his wife battled breast cancer. Smith then joined the race for lieutenant governor in May.
Smith could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.