By Ben Pershing
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 28, 2009
The Republican governor of one of the nation's most Democratic states announced Thursday that he will not run for reelection, putting another statehouse in play in the 2010 elections.
Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas said at a news conference in Montpelier that he is ready to hand control of the state's government over to a new leader.
"It's been the great privilege of my life to serve the people of this state that I love so well," Douglas said. "But as any farmer knows after many years of working sunup to sundown, seven days a week, there comes a time to turn over the reins to fresh arms. For me, that time is approaching."
Douglas, 58, is in his fourth two-year term as governor. He said Thursday that he does not plan to run for any other political office.
Though Douglas has been its governor since 2002, his state is strongly Democratic. President Obama won Vermont in 2008 with 68 percent of the vote, and all three of its lawmakers on Capitol Hill vote with Democrats (Sen. Bernard Sanders is officially an independent). Democrats also control both chambers of the state legislature.
Despite that tilt, the 2010 governor's race was not considered competitive as long as the popular Douglas was on the ballot. Now, the state moves into the top tier of competitive races for next fall.
Douglas faced potential challenges from at least three Democrats: Secretary of State Deb Markowitz and state Sens. Doug Racine and Susan Bartlett. Other Democratic candidates may emerge now that this will be an open-seat contest.
Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie is a Republican, but it is unclear whether he wants to run for the state's top job.
"The governor's announcement today changes the political landscape in Vermont," Dubie said in a statement Thursday. "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."
Earlier this year, Douglas wrote an essay for the Ripon Forum about the challenges of governing a Democratic state as a Republican.
"Political pundits and outside observers often view Vermont as one of the bluest of the blue states -- and they have ample evidence to make that case," Douglas wrote. "To simply view Vermont in that context fails to recognize that voters in the Green Mountain State are, in fact, pragmatic and independent people who want to know that their hard earned tax dollars are being put to use in the most effective and efficient manner possible."