Lively primaries for both parties in Vermont SOS campaign

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August 12, 2010

WILLISTON, Vermont: This year marks the first time since 1998 that the voters of Vermont will select an entirely new individual to serve as the state's top election official and record keeper. Democrat Deborah Markowitz, who has held the position for the past twelve years, has chosen not to seek re-election to statewide position, opting instead to campaign for the governorship.[1][2] As would be expected, the primary races for both major parties nominations are being hotly contested and have produced a number of interesting debates.

Democratic supporters of former state senator Jim Condos were an uproar following a radio interview in which Condos's primary opponent, Charles Merriman, remarked that he wished he had chosen to run in the race as an independent. While critics of the former state attorney general contended that he was uncommitted to the principles of the Democratic Party, Merriman himself responded by saying that he was making a central point that the office of secretary of state should be nonpartisan.[3]

Some of the more moderate elements of the State Democratic Party are concerned that Condos may be too partisan for the position to act independently. In particular, his sponsoring of the National Popular Vote measure along with fellow state senators Bill Carris, Claire Ayer, Donald Collins, Hinda Miller, Peter Shumlin, and Richard McCormack in January 2008 while a member of the Vermont State Senate have raised fears that he may try and push the bill again should he be elected secretary of state. The National Popular Vote Act (NPVA) is part of a nationwide movement, backed mainly by prominent and influential progressive political activists, among them billionaire George Soros, seeking to undermine the electoral college. Rather then push for a federal amendment drastically altering this process or removing it altogether, proponents of NPVA are going from state-to-state requesting states legislatures to vote in favor of entering an interstate agreement whereby each of the respective individual states is required to "award state electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote plurality, despite the vote in their own states."[4] It is believed that if a coalition of individual states controlling at least 270 electoral votes is formed, it could effectively disable the electoral college without having to drag out a lengthy, and most likely unsuccessful, constitutional amendment process. The problem, critics argue, is that this directly undermines the procedural method of making changes to the United States Constitution that the Founding Fathers established over two-hundred years ago.

As of July 2010, only six states, none of them considered "battleground" or "swing" states, have entered the compact - New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Illinois, Washington, and Hawaii, after the state legislature overrode the veto by the governor. Though it passed both the House and the Senate in the Vermont State Legislature, the National Popular Vote bill was vetoed by Republican Governor Jim Douglas.

On the Republican side of the campaign, the voters of Vermont had earlier in the year seen Commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation Jason Gibbs and attorney Chris Roy spare over the issue of public debates in the lead up to the primary election.[5] While Roy has managed to garner the endorsement of national Republican figures such as Arizona Senator John McCain, former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney, and Governor of Minnesota Tim Pawlenty, Gibbs has received the backing of more local, though certainly no less prominent, politicians, including Governor Jim Douglas.

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