Bernie Sanders re-elected for third Senate term

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- Vermont’s independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders cruised to re-election for his third term in the Senate Tuesday easily defeating a little known candidate.

The Associated Press called the race for Sanders, who is considering a 2020 run for the White House, when the polls closed at 7 p.m.

Sanders was challenged by Republican businessman Lawrence Zupan, of Manchester.

Sanders, who may still be considering a second run for the presidency in 2020, spent little time campaigning in the state ahead of Tuesday’s election. Zupan, a Manchester real estate broker with experience in international trade, campaigned against what he felt was big government and social welfare programs.

And Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, a Democrat who was first elected in 2006 and has consistently been one of Vermont’s most popular politicians, is defending his seat against Republican Anya Tynio.

Vermont’s two main gubernatorial candidates were waiting to learn their fates as town and city clerks across the state began counting the votes Tuesday night.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist cast her ballot at about 8 a.m. before heading out across the state for some last-minute campaigning.

Incumbent Republican Phil Scott voted about noon in his hometown of Berlin.

In addition to local issues in some communities, voters chose among candidates for governor, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House and all 180 members of the Legislature.

“I don’t like the way the country’s going these days, so I was interested in making that known,” said Joe John, 60, of Marshfield. “I voted Democrat.”

The race between Scott and Hallquist offered voters a clear choice between their policies. Hallquist, a former utility executive who is the first transgender major-party gubernatorial nominee in history, campaigned with a promise of a $15 minimum wage, universal health care and paid family leave. Scott’s campaign focused on a theme of not raising taxes or fees as part of a broader effort to promote economic development.

Jeff Maclay, 32, of Marshfield, voted mostly for Democrats, except for Republican Gov. Phil Scott.

“I feel like he’s doing a reasonable job and I’m not going to mess with success,” Maclay said of Scott.

As of last week, there were almost 483,000 people registered to vote in Vermont, which is more than the 2016 presidential election year by about 18,000 people.