UPDATE, 8/29 at 10:00 a.m.: T.J. Donovan says he'll likely concede the race this morning. For the latest updates, stay tuned to our new politics blog, Off Message.
This story was reported by Paul Heintz, Tyler Machado and Andy Bromage
For weeks, the Democratic contest for attorney general seemed too close — and too unusual — to predict. Tuesday night brought no swift resolution.
At the end of primary night — with 245 of 258 precincts reporting — Attorney General Bill Sorrell held a narrow 619-vote lead over challenger T.J. Donovan, according to the Associated Press. But with more than 40,000 voters casting ballots, neither campaign seemed fully prepared to declare victory — or defeat.
“This has been a really long six months and I’ve said several times this is more a marathon than a sprint,” Sorrell told a crowd of supporters at Burlington’s Courtyard Marriott after emerging for the first time at 10:15 p.m. “We’ve got about a mile or so more to run, and I’m feeling great.”
Standing beside a screen projecting the night’s promising but uncertain results, Sorrell said, “We’ve got a while to wait, but that’s okay. Because between being 600 or so votes up and 600 or so votes down, I choose option A.”
Greeting supporters next door at the Burlington Hilton, Donovan told Seven Days that with a dozen precincts left to report, he “owed it to everybody to see what the votes are.”
But Donovan did not sound hopeful he would pull out a win.
"It's gonna be tough," he said, adding that he would be “unlikely” to call for a recount — as a candidate within two percent of a winner is entitled to do — given the apparent size of Sorrell’s lead. "We've worked hard and I want to see this thing through. Somebody had us down 20 points a week ago.”
The AG's primary was the most expensive for that office in state history and the first competitive race for Vermont's top law enforcement job since Sorrell took office in 1997. Buoyed by $184,000 in super PAC advertising, Sorrell may well have fended off a challenge from an ambitious and well-organized young challenger who relentlessly hammered Sorrell's 15-year record during the five-month campaign.
For the second time in two years, Democrats faced the prospect of converging for a pre-scheduled "unity rally" on Wednesday with no clear winner. And with Republican AG candidate Jack McMullen waiting in the wings, Dems will be anxious to put the primary behind them and get the general election started.