MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermonters gave President Barack Obama an overwhelming endorsement Tuesday, giving the state's three electoral votes to the Democrat's total, while left-leaning independent U.S. Bernie Sanders, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and Gov. Peter Shumlin cruised to re-election, early returns showed.
Weather was clear and chilly and voting appeared to be relatively glitch-free around the state except in Barre, where a propane leak caused officials to close the city's one polling place and move it to another location about a quarter mile away. The poll was closed for about 30 minutes in midafternoon.
"Closing the polls is very serious and we take it very seriously," Barre Mayor Thomas Lauzon said. Luckily, the closure came during a relatively slow time of day. "The rush that we experience is early in the morning, noontime and right about now," he said at about 5 p.m.
The most closely contested races, and those expected not to be decided until later in the evening, were those for state treasurer, pitting Republican Wendy Wilton against Democrat Beth Pearce; and state auditor, with Democrat-Progressive Doug Hoffer facing long-time Republican state Sen. Vince Illuzzi.
Vermont was an easy win for Obama — it was the first state to be called for the Democrat the second election in a row.
"We've had four years of him. We know where we're headed," said Max Fortune of Moretown.
"I feel that with Mitt Romney it's an unknown," said Fortune, who is retired. "I don't like his tactics on the campaign. I didn't like either one of their tactics for a while, but I'm more comfortable with President Obama right now because I know what we're in for. I know what we're going to get."
Fortune spoke as he passed out brochures Tuesday outside the Thatcher Brook Primary School in Waterbury about an expanding landfill in his hometown. He said he had already voted in his hometown.
But in Barre, Charlie Mulcahy, 51, and his wife, Gail, 47, said they voted for Romney.
"I think he's going to be more with the common-sense thing than Obama," said Gail Mulcahy, a self-employed seller of beauty products. The couple moved to Vermont from Massachusetts six years ago. "I think he's going to be more for the people and not be spending all our money that we didn't have in the first place."
It was tough to find a Romney supporter in Montpelier, known as a Democratic stronghold in a Democratic state. Even Dexter Lefavour, a Republican candidate for the state Senate who held a sign advertising himself outside the polling place at Montpelier City Hall, said he had voted not for Romney, but for the Libertarian candidate for president, Gary Johnson.
Johnson got his vote "because he respects the principles I believe in: personal freedom, liberty, smaller government, limiting military imperialism," Lefavour said.
Some voters said they were disappointed in Obama's first four years, but still saw him as far preferable to Romney.
"The biggest issue for me this election is keeping the barbarians out of government," said Tom Wies, a retired Montpelier lawyer who said he voted for Obama and Gov. Peter Shumlin.
Sanders, a former Burlington mayor and U.S. House member seeking his second six-year term in the Senate, frequently criticizes an America in which he says the rich get more while the rest get squeezed. Federal Election Commission reports show Sanders had amassed $6.8 million in campaign funds as of Sept. 30, versus less than $77,000 for Republican challenger John MacGovern.
Welch enjoyed a similar advantage over another Republican with little cash or name recognition, Mark Donka.
Donka had not met the $5,000 threshold for fundraising that would have required a campaign finance report on Sept. 30, while Welch had $1.3 million.
The gap was somewhat narrower — but still large — in the race for governor, reflecting a contest in which Shumlin was widely seen as leading, but in which Republican state Sen. Randy Brock said he was gaining ground.
Attorney General William Sorrell was favored to win an eighth two-year term over Republican challenger Jack McMullen and Progressive Ed Stanak. Secretary of State Jim Condos has both the Democratic and Republican nominations and was running with just minor party opposition.