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Blog Home Page --> Governor -- Vermont

Vermont Governor Won't Seek Re-election

Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas (R) just announced that he will not seek re-election, creating an open-seat race in 2010 and offering Democrats a chance to win back the office for the first time since Howard Dean held it.

"As any farmer knows ... there comes a time to turn over the reigns to fresh arms," he said at a brief news conference this morning. "For me that time is approaching."

Douglas is currently serving his fourth two-year term, having won re-election easily three times in a heavily-Democratic state. There are already several Democrats angling to run, including state Sens. Doug Racine and Susan Bartlett and Secretary to State Deb Markowitz.

Douglas, who was a strong ally of President Obama during his effort to pass the stimulus bill, is currently serving as chair of the National Governors Association. He said he has no plans to run for the U.S. Senate or for Congress in 2010, but had no plans to be a lame duck governor. He also ruled out an even higher office.

"I am not running for president," he said to laughs. "Dorothy has a divorce lawyer on speed dial if I ever utter that crazy idea."

GOP Gov Up In Dem VT

It may be one of the most solidly Democratic states in the country, but Vermont likes its incumbent governor, who just so happens to be a Republican. A new poll, conducted for WCAX-TV, shows three-term Republican Jim Douglas running well ahead of his rivals from the Democratic and Progressive Parties, making it likely someone so conservative he passed out bumper stickers for Barry Goldwater will win a fourth term.

The poll, conducted by Maryland-based Research 2000 between 2/19-21, surveyed 400 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. The poll tested Douglas, former Ambassador Peter Galbraith, a Democrat, and activist Anthony Pollina, who has said he will run as a Progressive.

General Election Matchup
Douglas 53
Galbraith 22
Pollina 15

Galbraith has not officially entered the race yet, though national and Vermont Democrats are hoping he does. Without Pollina on the ballot, the party even thinks the contest could be competitive come November. But Douglas, the state's first governor since Howard Dean left office, has defeated tough candidates before. In 2002, he beat Dean's Lieutenant Governor by three points, even though a former Republican was in the race running as an independent.

In 2004, Douglas hammered Democrat Peter Clavelle, who had served for years as mayor of Burlington, by a whopping 59%-38% margin even as John Kerry took almost 60% of the vote that year. Two years later former State Senator Scudder Parker did only marginally better, losing to Douglas 56%-41%. Still, Democrats have picked up state legislative seats at an impressive clip; they now hold an overwhelming 23-7 majority in the state Senate and a 93-49 majority in the House, aided by six Progressive state representatives as well.

Democrats have a long way to go to knock off Douglas, but they have their opportunities as well. Vermont is one of just two states, along with neighboring New Hampshire, that makes its governors run every two years instead of every four. Democrat Pat Leahy, the state's senior senator, is an institution, while freshman Democratic Rep. Peter Welch is unlikely to face a real challenge this year.

Leahy's colleague in the Senate, Bernie Sanders, is a former Socialist, the first elected to the House since 1926, who owns seniority with the Democratic caucus. Though he declined to run as a Democrat during his 2006 Senate bid, the Vermont state party put him on the ballot anyway, where he won 94% of the vote. Though he was vastly outspent, he cruised to election by a 65%-32% margin.

That could be good news for Douglas: The state elected a Socialist and a Republican, in the same year, by wide margins. Though the Democratic nominee will probably carry the state easily, if Douglas can survive the GOP's miserable 2006 fortunes with popular Sanders on the ballot, he should be able to survive any Democratic wave as well.