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Gov. Phil Scott celebrates his win Tuesday night at the Double Tree by Hilton in Burlington, defeating democratic challenger Christine Hallquist.
Rick Levinson

Vermont is an odd duck, politically speaking.

It happened again on Tuesday: Vermonters turned out overwhelmingly for Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democrats up and down the ballot.

At the same time, voters elected Republican Gov. Phil Scott to a second term, rejecting Democratic challenger Christine Hallquist.

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Vermonters are accustomed to this kind of ballot-splitting, but the rest of the nation may be baffled.

Here are three factors that have helped a Scott to win Vermont, a state dominated by Democrats:

It's incumbency: Vermonters like familiar faces

Even in the 2016 campaign, when the governor's seat was open, Scott was well-known. He had served six years as Vermont's lieutenant governor, a common stepping stone to the governor's office.

Scott was also born in Vermont, attended the University of Vermont, and ran a successful construction business. Some voters have known Scott personally for decades.

Incumbency is powerful in the Green Mountain State: Voters have not booted an incumbent governor since 1962.

It's tradition: Vermonters have been swinging between GOP and Democratic governors for half a century

Vermont was a reliable Republican state for more than a century, until Democrat Phil Hoff won the governor's seat in 1962.

Newcomers who moved to Vermont in the 1960s — including a young Bernie Sanders — changed the state's political makeup.

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Republican candidate for governor Lt. Gov.r Phil Scott, right, chats with former Gov. Jim Douglas while cooking hamburgers during a campaign visit at Maple Landmark Woodcraft in Middlebury on Wednesday, June 1, 2016.
GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS

Party lines are less rigid in Vermont compared to other states: Vermonters do not register as members of any political party, and primaries are open to all voters.

Since Hoff's victory, the Vermont governor's office has alternated red and blue, only changing hands when the prior governor decides to step down.

"I think it's the old fashioned pendulum theory," said Eric Davis, professor emeritus of political science at Middlebury College. "Voters just sort of decide that after a number of terms of a more activist Democratic governor, they want more sort of consolidation and letting things be." 

Scott won the governor's office at a time when many Vermonters were skeptical of ambitious promises from state government. 

Scott's predecessor, Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, had failed to deliver a single-payer health care system, and his administration struggled to roll out an online health insurance exchange, Vermont Health Connect.

Scott was critical of both initiatives, and he deliberately avoided making pledges about new programs. He said it was time to rein in spending and tax increases.

"Be wary of those who will promise the sun, moon and stars," Scott said during his first campaign.

It's Phil Scott: Centrist policies, personality have wooed Democrats 

Soft-spoken race car driver Phil Scott has broad appeal among Vermonters. 

Ursula Dimitroff of Essex, who voted for Scott, shared an observation her young son had made about the governor: "He's always smiling."

His Democratic opponent, Christine Hallquist, said she voted for Scott in 2016 because he was a "nice guy." 

Scott often speaks about civility and the need to work together across political lines.

"We can't allow ourselves to fall victim to pettiness, political games and angry rhetoric," Scott said in his election night victory speech. "We must be better, kinder and more respectful to one another, and take time to listen."

Scott is a fiscal conservative, but he has also worked with Democrats on issues such as immigration, gun regulation and health care payment reform — even when those decisions have alienated fellow Republicans.

Scott supports abortion rights, transgender rights and LGBTQ protections. He speaks often about avoiding cuts to government services for "the most vulnerable." He has never supported President Donald Trump.

Related: Christine Hallquist worries about future of transgender rights after Vermont election

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Gov. Phil Scott prepares to sign three gun reform bills on the steps of the Statehouse in Montpelier on Wednesday , April 11, 2018.
GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS

The cooperation ends when Democrats propose a new spending program or a tax increase to fund water quality efforts or public schools. For Vermonters calling for tax relief, Scott is a welcome respite.

"I think that there are some people who want a Republican governor to sort of keep an eye out on the Democrats in the Legislature," said Davis, the retired Middlebury College professor.

Scott appears to have landed on a winning combination: A poll by Vermont Public Radio - Vermont PBS a month before the election showed that about a quarter of Democratic likely voters were planning to vote for Scott, and nearly half of Democrats said they approved of Scott. 

Contact April McCullum at 802-660-1863 or amccullum@freepressmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @April_McCullum.