Politics

Orange County sheriff’s race to get recount

George Contois, left, and Bill Bohnyak. Courtesy photos via Valley News

This story by John Lippman first appeared in the Valley News on Nov. 14.

CHELSEA — Orange County Sheriff Bill Bohnyak, trailing in his bid for reelection as county sheriff by less than 1%, is petitioning the court for a recount of the recent election results.

Bohnyak lost by just 100 votes to his challenger, part-time Orange County sheriff’s deputy George Contois, out of a total of 13,106 votes cast for the two candidates in the Nov. 8 general election, according to unofficial results reported by the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office pending certification.

Under Vermont law, losing candidates are entitled to a recount if the margin is 2% or less.

A candidate seeking recount must file a petition with the superior court in the county in which the votes were cast for the office within seven calendar days — Bohnyak filed on Monday with Orange Superior Court in Chelsea — and the court must set a recount date within 10 business days of receiving the petition, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Contois, 73, received a total of 6,603 votes, 100 more votes than the total of 6,503 votes received by Bohnyak, 65, who had not faced a challenger since he was first elected sheriff in 2006.

Contois, a retired Vermont State Police trooper, said he “frankly thought I was a non-contender” because his campaign involved participating in one candidates’ forum in Vershire in October, spending $417 on 20 campaign signs (“half of which were stolen,” he said) and “riding my horse in the parade in Chelsea on Memorial Day.”

He credited his strong showing to the “youth vote,” which he believes his two sons, 38 and 36, and both lifetime Orange residents, helped to turn out among their network of friends.

But one sign that Bohnyak was going to face a stiff challenge in the general election came during the August primary when Contois received 2,478 votes as a Democrat, more than twice the number as the 1,155 votes Bohnyak received as a Republican, according to Vermont Secretary of State’s Office records.

Bohnyak did not respond to messages for comment on Monday.

Pointedly, Bohnyak won his hometown of Randolph with 1,418 votes, more than twice as many as the 704 votes Contois received in Randolph. Bohnyak also won the towns of Braintree, Brookfield, Chelsea, Topsham and Williamstown.

Contois won Bradford — where he had been based as a state trooper — Corinth (by a single vote), Fairlee, Newbury, Strafford, Thetford, Tunbridge, Vershire, Washington and West Fairlee, according to state records.

In Thetford, Contois received 1,027 votes — the most in any of the 10 town he won — compared with 312 for Bohnyak.

To conduct a recount, each candidate is requested to submit a minimum of 10 nominees from which the court makes a minimum or 12 appointments, drawing an equal representation from each candidate, to serve on the recount committee. The recount, which aims to take place in a single day, is conducted by the county clerk with support from the Secretary of State’s Office, according to regulations.

In addition to 13,106 votes cast for Contois and Bohnyak, the Secretary of State’s office reported that 1,023 ballots were blank for choice of sheriff.

There were a total of 17 write-in votes, including two for former Orange County sheriff deputy Kevin Wilson and one vote each for White River Junction defense attorney Jordana Levine, Vermont poet and activist Tatiana Bruno, Wiiliamstown Historical Society President Rama Schneider, Randolph Center farmer Sam Lincoln and former President Donald Trump.

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