BURLINGTON — Democrat T.J. Donovan cruised to victory Tuesday over Republican Deb Bucknam and will become the state’s next attorney general in January.
Donovan, 42, was easily outpacing Bucknam with 62 of 276 voting districts reporting results to the Associated Press. Donovan had a lead of 63 percent to 33 percent and Bucknam conceded the race shortly after 9 p.m.
Donovan will replace Attorney General Bill Sorrell, who chose not to seek re-election after he was first appointed to the position by former Democratic Gov. Howard Dean 19 years ago.
Donovan said the race “was about the issues and we did it the Vermont way.”
“Thank you, Deb Bucknam,” he said.
He noted his narrow loss to Sorrell in a Democratic primary four years ago, but said he and his supporters continued “to fight to level the playing field for all Vermonters” since then.
“We have stayed the course, we have … finished the race and we have prevailed,” he said.
As attorney general, Donovan pledged to show “passion and understanding to all Vermonters” promised to “stand up for the folks who are struggling with addiction, struggling with mental illness and struggling with poverty,” and said the state would be “investing in restorative justice and community health, not just punitive justice.”
“We should stand up and make sure that the best public safety system means a good and decent job for every Vermonter,” Donovan said.
Donovan, the current state’s attorney for Chittenden County, focused his campaign on reforming the judicial system with a focus on restorative justice. Donovan in recent years has used his post in Chittenden County as a laboratory of sorts for judicial reform. He launched several programs there have become statewide policy, including a focus on treatment for low-level offenders that are addicted to opiates over incarceration.
Bucknam, 69, struggled to gain traction against the well-known Donovan, who is seen as a rising star in the Vermont Democratic Party. Polling showed Donovan with a wide lead over Bucknam in the weeks before Election Day.
She focused her campaign on tackling the state’s problem with opiate addiction, advocating for a task force to review current efforts and create a system of best practices that could be implemented statewide within the legal and health sectors. She wanted the task force to also review medication-assisted treatments, like suboxone and methadone, to gauge their effectiveness.
“I want to congratulate my opponent, TJ Donovan on his victory tonight. During an election season filled with negativity tactics, it was refreshing that we both ran a civil and issues oriented campaign,” Bucknam wrote in an emailed concession statement. “I look forward to working with Mr. Donovan on the important issues that matter to Vermonters especially the opioid epidemic that is effecting Vermont families. My fight to bring more focus around this disease in Vermont will not stop tonight and I look forward to continuing to speak up for all those effected.”
Donovan enjoyed a massive fundraising advantage over Bucknam. He raised nearly $500,000 for the race, compared to about $80,000 for Bucknam, including $45,000 of her own money that she loaned to her campaign.