(This story is by John P. Gregg, of the Valley News, in which it first appeared online Dec. 14, 2016.)
Windsor County election officials spent another long day in Woodstock on Wednesday, laboriously assessing and recounting ballots in the race for the Vermont House district representing Royalton and Tunbridge.
A little after 7 p.m., Royalton Republican David Ainsworth learned he has apparently defeated state Rep. Sarah Buxton, D-Tunbridge, by one vote. One ballot where voter intent was in question, but which had previously been judged to be in Ainsworth’s favor, was not included in the count and set aside for Judge Robert Gerety to consider, if it comes to that.
“It’s 1,004 to 1,003, with the one questionable ballot the judge still has to decide on, or I’m not sure what he’ll do,” Ainsworth said in a phone interview. “I’m relieved it’s over.”
Ainsworth said Buxton, his four-time rival, congratulated him after the tally was announced and the two hugged, but he was uncertain whether she might file an appeal on the recount.
Messages left for Buxton were not immediately returned. Her attorney, Rep. Willem Jewett, D-Ripton, confirmed Ainsworth’s assessment of the tally.
Seven Days reported that Buxton said Wednesday evening she was satisfied the recount was thorough but was disappointed not to be going back to the Legislature.
On Election Day, Buxton had a three-vote lead over Ainsworth, but a recount on Nov. 21 found the two tied, 1,000 to 1,000.
Ainsworth, a vegetable and dairy farmer who served on the House Agriculture Committee, lost his seat by one vote to Buxton in 2010. He said he hopes to regain his seat on the House Agriculture Committee, especially with the burdens Act 64, a new law intended to clean up Vermont waterways, is now placing on farmers.
“With this Act 64 being enacted and required agricultural practices maybe needing to be tuned up, I think it would be good to have an active farmer on the Ag Committee,” he said.
Buxton served on the House Education Committee and voted in support of the Act 46 school consolidation law that has put pressure on small school districts in the White River Valley to consider merging.
Meanwhile, a hearing is scheduled in Vermont Superior Court in Chelsea on Friday morning in the race for an Orange-1 House seat representing the towns of Chelsea, Vershire, Corinth, Washington, Williamstown and Orange. A machine recount last month showed Chelsea Republican Bob Frenier edging out state Rep. Susan Hatch Davis, P-Washington, by six votes. She has asked a judge to order a hand tally, which may not be allowed under a law enacted in 2014.