GOP businessman Milne to face incumbent Vermont Gov. Shumlin in November

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MONTPELIER, Vermont — Scott Milne faces a big challenge in his bid to unseat Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, including a more than 20-1 fundraising lead for the incumbent.

"I think we're going to see a typical campaign from an incumbent with a lot of money and a lot of government money to dole out, but who's got a really bad record he's going to have to try to run away from," Milne said Tuesday night after securing the Republican nomination in the primary.

Milne, president of a family travel business from Pomfret and a newcomer to elective politics, had raised $42,790 as of Aug. 18, according to his campaign finance report. Shumlin, meanwhile, had amassed a campaign war chest of $1.1 million.

Milne announced his candidacy less than three months ago, and is continuing to work to solidify the platform on which he'll run. He has said he expects to unveil a series of positions on issues in September. That timing comports well with Shumlin's approach. He, too, has said he did not want the campaign to begin in earnest until after Labor Day.

Milne also doesn't appear to have history on his side. He noted no challenger has defeated an incumbent governor in 52 years, since Democrat Phil Hoff beat Republican F. Ray Keyser in 1962.

"I'm really happy and flattered and humbled that I'm the man in the shoes who's walking toward doing that," Milne said Tuesday evening.

Shumlin so easily beat back a challenge from Washington resident H. Brooke Paige that he was able to remain on vacation on Primary Day.

His campaign issued a statement quoting him as saying that serving as governor is "the greatest privilege of my life," touting his efforts to add jobs and saying he looked forward to the campaign.

Milne's victory came against two other candidates on the GOP ballot and a write-in bid for the Republican nomination by Libertarian Dan Feliciano.

Initial returns indicated that fewer than one in 10 registered Vermont voters ventured to the polls on Tuesday in a year when there's no presidential contest or election for one of the state's two U.S. Senate seats.

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination in his bid for a fifth term. Three Republicans vied for the chance to challenge him in November. Mark Donka, Donald Nolte and Donald Russell each had about a third of the vote as ballots were counted Tuesday night.

But the winner of that primary, too, was expected to face an uphill battle in the fall. Donka won the Republican nomination two years ago and lost to Welch by a margin of more than 3-1.

The main excitement in the primary came from the write-in campaigns launched by Feliciano and by the Progressive Party's Dean Corren, a former Vermont House member from Burlington, in the race for lieutenant governor.

There were no declared Democrats for that office on the primary ballot, and Corren sought to take advantage of that opening by asking Democratic voters to write his name in. Nearly 4,000 write-in votes had been counted by 10 p.m. Tuesday but exactly how many went to Corren will not be clear until Wednesday at the earliest.

In Vermont's primary, voters are offered one ballot for each party, but must choose one, meaning that no one can vote for a Republican for one office and a Democrat for another, for example, unless the voter writes the candidate's name in.

Some prominent Democrats said they supported incumbent Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, a moderate Republican who is well-liked among the Democrats who control the Vermont Senate, over which he presides.

Scott said Tuesday evening that while some Democrats were supporting him, he knew of no organized effort to solicit write-in votes for him on the Democratic ballot, adding that he expected Corren to garner that party's nomination.

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