BURLINGTON, Vt. — Bernie Sanders, the six-term independent congressman from Vermont, swept to victory in the race for U.S. Senate over Republican billionaire Rich Tarrant. In an election in which 70 percent of Vermonters said they were concerned about the war in Iraq — 60 percent said they were very concerned — Sanders’ unequivocal call to end the war attracted the support of almost 70 percent of Vermonters.
On election night, speaking to supporters as the returns came in, Sanders said, “The people of Vermont have told America that we are sick and tired of the right-wing extremists who have been running this country. It is time that the government start to represent the working families of Vermont and America, not just the rich and powerful.”
He told the crowd the time was long overdue for “the United States to join the rest of the industrialized world and provide health care to every man, woman and child as a right of citizenship.”
Sanders reminded the cheering crowd: “This small state knows what the war in Iraq is about. We have lost more soldiers per capita than any state in the country. I believe that the people of Vermont and the people of America want our troops to come home.”
The audience responded with deafening applause.
Sanders’ strong showing helped Democrat Peter Welch win Vermont’s sole congressional seat with 53 percent of the vote. Welch defeated the former adjutant general of the Vermont National Guard, Martha Rainville.
In other contests, the Republican Gov. Jim Douglas and Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie easily defeated the Democratic candidates, who never seemed to take on the incumbents over the major issues of the campaign until late in the campaign.
At the same time, Democrats increased their margins in both houses of the state Legislature.
Despite the overwhelming Democratic political tides, the Progressive Party of Vermont maintained its hold on six legislative seats, returning all but one incumbent and winning a new seat in Orange County. Susan Davis made the breakthrough there, a rural area where Democrats have found it almost impossible to get elected to state office.
Several candidates had run in new districts for the Progressives, and many did well, but only Davis registered a win.
Martha Abbott, the Progressive candidate for state auditor, won 9.4 percent of the vote, thus preserving the Vermont Progressive Party’s status as a major party.