2001-09-06 / Front Page

Governor Dean Won’t Run Again, Will be Longest-Serving Governor of State

Governor Dean Won’t Run Again, Will be Longest-Serving Governor of State

During his 10 years as governor, Howard Dean has stayed in touch by making innumerable trips to the White River Valley. Here he addresses a breakfast meeting of the Randolph Chamber of Commerce in 1998. (Herald file photo / Stefan Hard)During his 10 years as governor, Howard Dean has stayed in touch by making innumerable trips to the White River Valley. Here he addresses a breakfast meeting of the Randolph Chamber of Commerce in 1998. (Herald file photo / Stefan Hard)

Vermont Gov. Howard Dean announced yesterday that he will not seek reëlection next year. By the time he retires in January, 2003, he will have served for almost 12 years—the longest term in office since Vermont became a state in 1791.

In an interview with The Herald yesterday, Dean admitted that he was stricken with "remorse" about his decision when he first told family members, asking himself, "Is this really what you want to do?"

After more discussions with staff, however, Dean said he was convinced it IS what he wants to do, "much as I love this job."

The governor said, he’s following the example of George Washington, when he refused to run for President a third time. Simply, he said, democracy requires change.

His staff, he said, was "somewhat shocked" when he announced his decision.

"It’s a big change," he said. "There are a lot of people who have gotten set in their ways; but life is all about change.

"The governor’s office is a lot bigger than the people who serve in it," he remarked philosophically.

Now’s a good time to make the announcement, he said, so that the people of Vermont can have plenty of time to look over the politicians who would succeed him as governor.

Gov. Dean stressed that he would have no comments to make evaluating potential candidates—but he did say he believes that any successful Democrat must be a centrist Democrat, rather than one from the liberal wing.

His success in office, he said has "changed the way the Democratic party is going to work. People realize you can’t win that way (from the Democratic left)," he said.

The positioning for power began immediately. A fax arrived quickly at news offices from Senate President Peter Shumlin, who will run for the Democratic nomination. U.S. Sen. James Jeffords, who has from time to time wished to be governor, also sent a quick fax.

"I sincerely believe that Vermont is a better place because of Howard Dean," said the newly-Independent Jeffords.

Candidates Line Up

The other Democrat ready to run for governor is Lt. Gov. Doug Racine. Unofficially announced candidates on the Republican side are state treasurer James Douglas and veteran bureaucrat Con Hogan. Other speculations mention the names of progressives Anthony Pollina and Peter Clavelle, the mayor of Burlington.

In his Herald interview, Gov. Dean said he has made no decision on what’s next for him, saying he wants to let his situation "sink in" for awhile. Asked about ambitions for higher office, he quickly said that "It’s too early to tell."

Dean floated trial balloons for a Presidential campaign several years ago but popped them quickly when Vermont reaction turned sour.

It was clear from his cell phone conversation yesterday that the decision was difficult because Dean loves being governor so much.

"This is just a wonderful job, and it’s the people of the state that make it that way," he said. "People believe in human dignity, and that makes it a great environment.

"People respect themselves, and that allows them to respect others."

Dean recently passed his 10th anniversary as governor. He said his greatest achievements were in encouraging land conservation and in expanding children’s programs, especially the expansion of low-cost health care for children.

He’s also been known as a budget-pincher, and he said that he is leaving the state in good financial shape, with $100 million in the bank and a good bond rating.

One indication of the need for change, he said, is that his own children, aged 17 and 15, hardly can remember the time that he wasn’t governor. He will have been in state office for 20 years by 2003.

By M. D. Drysdale

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