BRIDPORT — Sen. Harold Giard, D-Bridport, woke up Wednesday morning with a new lease on his political life after surviving a spirited challenge from East Middlebury resident Amy Sheldon in a close Democrat write-in campaign for state Senate.
Giard, a three-term incumbent, defeated Sheldon 845-757, based on write-in returns from the 23 Addison County towns and Brandon that make up the two-seat senatorial district.
The victory means Giard’s name will be placed on the general election ballot as one of two Democratic Senate nominees. He missed having his name on the Democratic primary ballot after he failed to turn his petition papers by the July deadline. This meant Giard had to gather at least 50 (and a majority of) write-in votes in the Aug. 24 primary to be placed on the Democrat Nov. 2 ballot with fellow Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire Ayer of Weybridge, who won the uncontested primary. The pair will now square off on Nov. 2 against Orwell Republicans Mark Young and Andrea Ochs.
“It was a near-death experience,” Giard said Wednesday of his close victory over Sheldon, a first-time candidate, Middlebury Planning Commission member and owner-operator of the local environmental consulting business “Landslide Inc.”
Giard carried 13 Addison County towns and Brandon, scoring his most decisive wins in his hometown of Bridport (58-10); Ferrisburgh (48-6); and New Haven (42-22). Giard and Sheldon tied in Cornwall at 65 tallies each.
While Sheldon won only five towns, she won most of those decisively and lost only by small margins to Giard in many other towns. For example, Sheldon took Ripton by an 85-24 margin; Bristol by a 65-40 count; and Weybridge by a 53-35 tally. But Sheldon didn’t bank as much of a margin as she needed in her hometown of Middlebury, out-pacing Giard 280-257. Realizing the electoral advantage of Sheldon’s home turf, Giard and his supporters spent ample time on Tuesday waving to passersby.
Giard was seen by some Democrat organizers as providing, with Ayer, the stronger, more experienced ticket to face the GOP challengers in November. Giard is considered a moderate Democrat with an agricultural background who can appeal to voters on both sides of the political aisle.
“When you come out on the other end of an experience like this, you become a changed person,” Giard added of Tuesday’s scare.
He said he believes his first task will be to “repair some fences” with fellow county Democrats who might have been miffed by his missing the filing deadline. Giard had been working, out of the county, when the deadline came and passed.
“I’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said, promising a “shoe-leather campaign” to reintroduce himself and his ideas to the voters of Addison County and Brandon.
But Giard believes most constituents realize the work he regularly puts into his Senate chores. It’s a job he said he takes very seriously and on which he devotes time 364 days per year.
“I don’t think anyone has called me on Christmas,” he said of his usual workload of committee meetings, office hours and interaction with constituents.
“I would hope Addison County voters recognize I work at this very hard,” Giard said. “It has been a privilege to serve, and I never forget that.”
Sheldon, meanwhile, said she enjoyed the campaign and was pleased to have made a credible run in only five weeks as a first-time candidate.
“My supporters overwhelmed me with their enthusiasm,” Sheldon said.
“I will definitely run again.”
In the meantime, Sheldon will back her party’s nominees.
“I congratulate (Giard) and wish him well in the general election,” she said.
Eric Davis, Middlebury College Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Addison Independent political columnist, forecasts a very competitive race this November for Addison County and Brandon’s state Senate seats. Davis believes Young, in particular, is likely to give Democrats a run for their money.
“It will be very interesting to see,” David said.
Giard won 14 towns by the following margins:
Addison 22-6, Brandon 31-30, Bridport 58-10, Ferrisburgh 48-6, Leicester 13-11, Lincoln 29-8, Monkton 29-10, New Haven 42-22, Orwell 17-9, Panton 7-2, Shoreham 34-12, Vergennes 21-18, Waltham 16-3 and Whiting 9-2.
Sheldon won five towns by the following margins:
Bristol 65-40, Middlebury 280-257, Ripton 85-24, Salisbury 31-19, Weybridge 53-35.
Giard and Sheldon both tallied 65 votes in Cornwall and both got no votes in Goshen, Granville and Hancock.
John Flowers is at email@example.com.