Gov. Jim Douglas won’t seek re-election

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MONTPELIER -- Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas announced Thursday he won’t seek re-election, 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 wouldn’t run for another two-year term next year but had 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. 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’d indicated in recent months that he planned to run again, made the announcement midway through his fourth term in a room packed with longtime aides, supporters and some political opponents. He wasn’t specific in saying why he didn’t want to continue in the job, saying only he’d 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. (Wife) Dorothy has a divorce lawyer on speed dial if I ever utter that crazy idea," he said.

Elected recently to chair the National Governors Association, he also has been an informal adviser to President Barack 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 gay 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, Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie is seen as the most obvious candidate. He left the door open to a potential run Thursday.

"The Governor’s announcement today changes the political landscape in Vermont," said Dubie. "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 didn’t want to speculate on what impact his announcement would have on the race.

"There’ll be lots of time to talk about the political fallout form this decision, what the ramifications are for campaigns. 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.

In his remarks, Douglas listed several of his accomplishments, including his "e-state initiative" to expand cell phone 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 during 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.

Douglas said in a later interview that he had slowly come to his decision during the past couple of months.

Eric Davis, a retired Middlebury College political science professor, noted former Gov. Howard Dean announced he would not seek another term at almost the same point in the election cycle -- about a year before the September primary.


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