Gov. Douglas’ announcement that he will not run again for governor catches the state’s political gurus off-guard. Nearly everyone thought he would run for a fifth term and, most likely, win.
At his press conference, he reviewed his administration’s accomplishments in the past seven years, spoke of the great privileges of being governor and suggested that it was time for him to enter a new era in his life sans politics. As always, it was a gracious speech spiced with a bit of humor when he said he wanted to eliminate at least some speculation about his future plans, noting to laughter that he was not running for president, then adding that his wife Dorothy had a divorce lawyer on the ready if he made any moves in that direction. He also noted he was not running for statewide office of any kind, congressional or otherwise, in 2010.
Why might Douglas make this decision now? Two reasons come to mind:
First, he sincerely wants to get out of politics and this allows him to get out on a high note without having to go into a campaign in which further cuts and possible tax hikes are the only viable options.
Second, he is still considering a run for the U.S. Senate or House at a later date (after 2010) and wants to avoid the tough political choices that will have to be faced in the next three years — including more budget cuts and possible tax hikes. Ducking out now may preserve his reputation as a “no-new-taxes” kind of conservative without angering voters with the inevitable cuts in services that Vermonters would face in the absence of tax increases. While there are no immediate political openings in any of the state’s congressional seats, staying out of the fray today could benefit him in any statewide race a few years from now.
That’s just conjecture, however.
Mr. Douglas may simply be tired of the political scene and just want to transition to private industry for the next phase of his working life.
What is certain is that Douglas’ decision opens the playing field for even more Democrats who now might want to toss their hat into the ring. On the Republican side, Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie will be the shoe-in as that party’s candidate if he wants it.