Sorrell leads race by about 600 votes, but victory not definitive; Donovan hasn’t conceded

Editor’s note: This report is from Nat Rudarakanchana and Taylor Dobbs.

Bill Sorrell, at campaign headquarters. Photo by Nat Rudarakanchana

Bill Sorrell, at campaign headquarters. Photo by Nat Rudarakanchana

The primary race for Vermont Attorney General is all but over.

Attorney General Bill Sorrell finished a tense primary election night with a lead of about 600 votes with 95 percent of precincts reporting, but he didn’t declare victory over challenger TJ Donovan last night. Nor has Donovan conceded defeat. Both campaigns are waiting until tomorrow for more definite results.

The AP reported exactly 20,000 votes for Donvan, 20,614 for Sorrell with 244 of 258 electoral precincts reporting as of 10:48 p.m. The Secretary of State’s office had reports from about 67 percent of polls as of this morning. In that count, Donovan had 16,021 votes and Sorrell was ahead with 16,478 votes.

In a speech delivered late last night, Sorrell said: “We got a while to wait. But that’s OK: because between being 600 or so votes up and 600 or so votes down, I choose option A.”

Donovan told supporters: “I wish I was up 600 votes, but I’m proud. This hasn’t been done in this state and, you know, we worked hard and we are close, and I just want to know all the votes, because we worked hard and we’re close.”

In an interview at the end of the night, a tired Donovan said, “I feel like we owe it to our supporters and to everybody to count all the votes to see where we are.”

The race was neck and neck throughout the evening, often at a 50-50 or 51-49 percent split, with Sorrell most often carrying the slight lead.

The Vermont Democratic Party has scheduled a “unity” rally for noon on Wednesday.

Sorrell said, he wouldn’t declare victory until Donovan’s campaign conceded.

 There was talk in both campaign parties about the possibility of Donovan requesting a recount. But the candidate himself said such a request would be “unlikely.”

State's Attorney TJ Donovan, who is challenging Bill Sorrell to take over the Attorney General's office. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs

State's Attorney TJ Donovan, who is challenging Bill Sorrell to take over the Attorney General's office. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs

“I mean, we’d just have to see what the numbers are,” Donovan said.

Both candidates spent the day campaigning hard, visiting polling places around Vermont and hosting tense and well-attended election parties.

Speaking to reporters after his speech, Sorrell said he didn’t know why the voting results were so close, citing a “bunch of factors in play.” Sorrell lost his hometown of Burlington to Donovan.

Sorrell said he had no idea which towns were left uncounted at the end of the night, but emphasized that he wouldn’t “prematurely” call the race over.

As for Sorrell’s late appearance at his own election party, he said “It’s been six months of waiting and stress, so tonight was no different.”

Donovan’s campaign also couldn’t figure out which towns hadn’t yet reported, a source of much distress as the evening wore on. Ultimately, Donovan said he was happy with the campaign but he hopes tomorrow’s results will be more favorable.

“I’m really proud of our campaign, I’m proud of our volunteers, I’m proud of the ideas, I’m proud of the effort,” Donovan said. Then he paused, and said: “We’re just a little short right now.”

For blow-by-blow coverage of the primary race, go to VTDigger’s live blog. We’ll continue posting new information between now and the Vermont Democratic Party’s unity rally at noon today.

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