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VPR Poll: Leahy Leads In Senate Race; Milne Fails To Grow Support

Photo illustration by Emily Alfin Johnson; Photo by Taylor Dobbs, Patti Daniels / VPR
Sen. Patrick Leahy has a significant advantage in the upcoming election.

About 60 percent of Vermonters polled say they'd vote for Democratic incumbent Sen. Patrick Leahy, who has held the office since 1975. His challenger, Republican Scott Milne,has held steady in recent months with about 22 percent of polled voters.

Leahy has been a U.S. senator since 1975, when he was 34 years old, and says he doesn't plan on slowing down any time soon.

His base has remained steady since a VPR poll in July, when 62 percent of Vermonters polled said they would vote for Leahy. In VPR's most recent poll, conducted from Sept.29 to Oct. 14, an equally high 59 percent of those polled chose the seven-term incumbent.

Top takeaways from the VPR Poll

Jean Dedam, 69, of Peacham, says she'll be supporting Leahy. She describes the senator as thoughtful and deliberate with his actions.

"And with his seniority he has some power," says Dedam. "And he has the history, he knows from history what has worked and what hasn't worked. And he is a Democrat, but I think he is willing to work with Republicans where that's possible."

Valuing candidates who listen

Dedam says one national issue she's concerned about is the effort to take away funding from programs such as Social Security and Medicare. She says she doesn't want to see those programs "impacted negatively by blaming them for them budget deficit, and then 'super-funding' defense, for example."

Credit Emily Alfin Johnson

Dedam says Leahy acts based on ethics and morals, and he is also willing to listen.

That sentiment was important on both sides of the ticket.

"Milne has that mentality, where he is very proactive in his community; he's very proactive in Vermont, in general; and he listens. He listens really well," says Nick Manosh, 51, of Morrisville.

"I'm not saying that Mr. Leahy doesn't — I'm just saying that change is good," he says.

Manosh says he supports term limits for political positions, and he thinks it's time to bring a fresh voice into the office. He says he often votes Republican, but he evaluates each candidate based on the issues, not simply by political party. 

Manosh, who knows Milne personally, says "he has some great ideas, he's a business owner, and he's very capable of being a senator."


Of those polled who identify as Republican or Republican leaning, 58 percent say they would vote for Milne. But some are still undecided.

Owen Mayhew, 26, of Barnard, says he likes the idea of someone coming in and shaking up the Senate seat that Leahy has held for so long. But he's not convinced that Scott Milne is the one to do it.

"I've noticed Milne's website is very sparse on specifics," says Mayhew. "And I kind of like the idea of an underdog, and I don't feel very good about career politicians, but I'm not ready to vote for somebody who has like three lines on website explaining his position."

Explore the full results of the VPR Poll

Mayhew says he voted for Libertarian candidates in the last two presidential elections. He says one of his big considerations in voting in any race is whether the candidate has proposed a clear plan to how he or she will pay for his or her proposed plans.

One thing that Nick Manosh says he appreciates about the Senate race is that both sides have stayed generally positive. 

In the current political climate, that's saying something.

The VPR Poll was made possible in part by the VPR Journalism Fund.

Kathleen Masterson as VPR's New England News Collaborative reporter. She covered energy, environment, infrastructure and labor issues for VPR and the collaborative. Kathleen came to Vermont having worked as a producer for NPR’s science desk and as a beat reporter covering agriculture and the environment.
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