Progressive gubernatorial candidate Martha Abbott today celebrated victory in her party’s primary, then immediately declined the nomination.
According to the state Canvassing Committee, whose job it is to declare winners and losers, Abbott managed to fend off a surprise write-in campaign launched on behalf of anti-ridgeline-wind activist Annette Smith. Smith isn’t ready to concede the race just yet – more on that later. But Abbott today withdrew from the race, and urged her supporters to get behind Gov. Peter Shumlin.
“After talking with Progressives throughout the State, it is clear that most want to stay out of the Governor’s race this year,” Abbott said in a written statement. “Gov. Shumlin has shown that he is fully committed to implementing a single-payer health care plan and to closing Vermont Yankee, priorities which Progressives have worked on for decades. It is important that Shumlin receive large majorities in the election to demonstrate the political will of Vermonters to continue to put these policies in place.”
By keeping a third-party candidate off the general election ballot, Abbott aims to help Shumlin win a more convincing electoral mandate.
She said Progressives aren’t pleased with the Democratic incumbent on all fronts.
“Progressives have differences with Gov. Shumlin on tax policy, on labor issues, on issues of sustainable economic development, agriculture policy, buyingVermontfirst, the F-35s, starting a State Bank and private for-profit development ofVermont’s resources for energy production, and we will continue to fight for these issues in the Legislature and in political campaigns,” Abbott said.
But ideological differences notwithstanding, Abbott said “we must be strategic about which races we chose to run in so we can continue to be effective advocates for the issues we believe in. For these reasons, I am declining the Progressive nomination for Governor in 2012.”
Not everyone is convinced, however, that the nomination is Abbott’s to decline. Smith and some of her supporters are calling for a deeper look at alleged irregularities in the voting process last Tuesday, and have questioned the legitimacy of the vote count certified by the canvassing committee.
Though Abbott and Smith are separated by only 17 votes, 371-354, Smith can’t call for a recount. Elections law allows a candidate to demand another tally only when the top two candidates are separated by a margin of fewer than 2 percent, and with such a small turnout in the Prog primary, the 17-vote margin fails to meet that threshold.
But Smith says there are other legal options to pursue, including petitioning for a recount in superior court. Stay tuned…