Jim Douglas

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Biography

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Jim Douglas was born on June 21, 1951, in Springfield, MA. He attended Middlebury college in Middlebury, VT, where he was a Russian Studies major and president of the Middlebury chapter of the College Republicans. Following his graduation, he ran for and won a seat in the Vermont House of Representatives in November of 1972. In 1977, he became Majority Leader at the age of 25, and served in this position for two years before resigning to work for then-Governor Richard Snelling. In 1980, Douglas was elected Vermont Secretary of State, a job he held for the next 12 years. In 1992, he mounted an unsuccessful challenge to Senator Patrick Leahy in what would become the closest race of Leahy's career. In 1994, with the endorsement of both major parties, Douglas was elected State Treasurer, where he continued to serve until his ultimately successful bid for Governor in 2002.


Election as Governor

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In 2002, then-incumbent Governor Howard Dean decided not to run for a fourth consecutive term, leaving the Governor's office open. As the most experienced statewide Republican available, Douglas immediately threw his hat into the ring against Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. Doug Racine. Center-right independent Cornelius "Con" Hogan also filed to run.

On the left, Racine's refusal to court the endorsement of Vermont's far-left Progressive Party also hurt him, as did the rest of the state's general animosity toward his home of Chittenden County. The national trends of post-Clinton malaise toward centrist Democrats and support for Republican candidates in the wake of 9/11 also didn't help Racine. Douglas, however, lost several center-right voters to Hogan and to perennial Liberty Union candidate Peter Diamondstone, beating Racine 45-42, but failing to achieve the 50% needed for outright victory.

Under Vermont law, if no candidate for Governor gets 50% of the vote, the result of the election is decided by the state legislature. The precedent in such a case is generally for the legislature to choose the winner of the popular vote, regardless of electoral percentage. (It certainly didn't hurt Douglas that the Vermont House also happened to be controlled by Republicans at the time.)

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Subsequent Elections


Following Douglas' s election the vaguely unified Vermont left of the Dean years disintegrated into a backbiting civil war between the Democrats and the Progressives. A dearth of Democratic talent with mass appeal to the state at large also didn't help matters, forcing the Democrats to run second and third-tier candidates, often from the Progressive/far left stronghold of Chittenden County. Douglas, meanwhile, proved to be an extremely skilled retail politician. As in most small, rural states, he has also been able to escape close local media scrutiny due to his being a Republican. <span style="font-size: medium;" /><span style="font-size: medium;" /><span style="font-size: medium;" />

In 2004, Douglas was easily re-elected to a second term, dispatching Burlington Mayor and former Progressive Peter Clavelle 59-38 even as Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry easily captured the state's electoral votes. <span style="font-size: medium;" /> Democrats fared little better in 2006, in which former state senator and Vermont Department of Public Service director Scudder Parker only improved on Clavelle's total by 3 points despite the strong Democratic tide nationally. Finally, in 2008, the liberal field was completely fractured, with Progressive/Independent candidate Anthony Pollina and Democratic Vermont House Speaker Gaye Symington both running; despite the state's overwhelming tide for President Obama, Douglas hung on to 53% of the vote against both of them. The 2008 election is also notable for having produced, in Symington, one of the most incompetent, out-of-touch, and generally unpopular candidates for governor from a major party in national history, resulting in a humiliating third-place finish with 22% of the vote. <span style="font-size: medium;" />

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2010 Election

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Fortunately for Vermont Democra<span style="font-size: medium;" /><span style="font-size: medium;" />ts, 2010 has so far proven to be a top-tier recruiting bonanza. The field has gone from one ineffectual candidate to at least three heavy-hitters. Racine, who rose from the political ashes of his 2002 loss by going on to a very successful career as a state senator, is joined in the primary by Secretary of State Deb Markowitz and House Rules Committee Chair Susan Bartlett. Senate Majority Leader Peter Shumlin, last seen losing the 2002 race for Lt. Governor, may also be interested. <span style="font-size: medium;" />

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