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Vt. governor won’t seek new term

Says 36 years in public service is enough for him

Governor Jim Douglas was applauded at his Montpelier office yesterday, where he announced he will not run again. Governor Jim Douglas was applauded at his Montpelier office yesterday, where he announced he will not run again. (Toby Talbot/Associated Press)
By Dave Gram
Associated Press / August 28, 2009

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MONTPELIER - Governor Jim Douglas announced yesterday that he will not seek reelection, saying that after 36 years in the spotlight, it was time to call it quits.

In a surprise announcement he attributed mainly to personal reasons, the 58-year-old Republican said he would not run for another two-year term next year, but has no plans to seek other elected office.

“As any farmer knows after many years working sunup to sundown, seven days a week, there comes a time to turn over the reins to fresh arms,’’ he said. “For me, that time is approaching.

“After 36 years as a public servant, 28 of those years in statewide office, with what will be eight years as governor, and through 15 statewide elections, I will have held center stage long enough for anybody.’’

Douglas, who had said in recent months that he planned to run again, made the announcement midway through his fourth term in a room packed with long-time aides, supporters and some political opponents.

He was not specific about why he did not want to continue in the job, saying only that he had been in public service long enough.

“I know there will be some speculation as to what is next, so I want to lay a few questions to rest immediately: I am not running for president,’’ he said, adding that his wife Dorothy “has a divorce lawyer on speed dial if I ever utter that crazy idea.’’

Elected recently to chair the National Governors Association, he has also been an informal adviser to President Obama on health care and other issues.

A fiscal conservative and social moderate who has bucked Vermont’s political tide for years, Douglas has endured an increasingly rocky relationship with the state’s Democrat-controlled Legislature. In April, the Legislature approved same-sex marriage over his veto. The Legislature also overrode his veto of the state budget.

Three Democrats have already announced plans to run against Douglas in 2010.

On the Republican side, Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie is seen as the most obvious candidate. He left the door open to a potential run yesterday.

“The governor’s announcement today changes the political landscape in Vermont,’’ Dubie said. “As Vermonters reflect on this new landscape, I will contemplate my options. Right now, I will focus on doing my job. I will discuss my plans when the time is right.’’

Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, one of the Democrats vying to replace Douglas, said she did not want to speculate on what impact the announcement by Douglas would have on the race. “There’ll be lots of time to talk about the political fallout form this decision. . . . Today, we should really focus on Jim Douglas and his service to the state.’’

A fixture in Vermont politics since 1972, when he was elected to the House of Representatives as a 21-year-old fresh out of Middlebury College, Douglas went on to serve as secretary of state and state treasurer before being elected governor in 2002.

Douglas listed several of his accomplishments, including his “e-state initiative’’ to expand cellphone and broadband Internet service in a small, rural state; his efforts, which have seen mixed success, to rein in lawmakers’ appetite for spending; an expansion of publicly subsidized health insurance and scholarship and job-training programs.

He vowed to resist efforts to paint him as a lame duck over his remaining 16 months in office, saying he was ready to do battle with the Legislature, especially over the budget, during the session that starts in January.

“I’ll continue to fight for working Vermonters and small business owners who struggle to make ends meet by resisting efforts to raise taxes, to grow government and increase spending, as I always have,’’ he said.