October 2, 2009, the Burlington Free Press, by Nancy Remsen
MONTPELIER — With an e-mail sent Thursday morning, Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie ended a month of speculation about his political future by announcing his candidacy for governor in 2010. His decision gave him the Republican nomination.
“It was a big decision,” Dubie explained in an interview at his Statehouse office. He cited the problems the state faces because of the recession and the rigors of a gubernatorial campaign as factors he had to weigh before deciding to run for governor. “It is going to be a difficult time for our Legislature and our next governor,” Dubie said.
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“And it is going to be a huge commitment for my family,” he continued, pointing to a photograph of his wife and four children under glass on his conference table. “Everyone in the family feels it is the right thing to do.”
Dubie said he hadn’t considered running for governor in 2010 — until Gov. Jim Douglas rocked Vermont’s political world with his Aug. 27 announcement that he wouldn’t seek re-election next year. “It certainly was a surprise to me,” Dubie said, noting he learned of Douglas’ decision only a few days before the announcement.
The Vermont Republican Party quickly embraced Dubie’s candidacy Thursday, and other Republicans who had talked of running for the top job declared their support for Dubie instead.
“Vermont couldn’t ask for a finer individual to step forward,” said Rob Roper, chairman of the Vermont Republican State Committee. “Brian Dubie is a pilot, a soldier, a farmer, a husband and father. It is his deep and sincere commitment to these roles in his life that has made him such an empathetic and effective public servant. He’s the real deal, and the people of Vermont know it.”
Dubie won’t know his Democratic opponent for nearly a year. Three Democrats already have made their candidacies official: Sen. Susan Bartlett, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz and Sen. Doug Racine. Two others — Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin and former Sen. Matt Dunne — say they may jump in the race, too.
Dubie said it took time to examine the challenges of what is sure to be a hotly contested race and then the job of governing in such trying times. He said he also had to figure how a full-time campaign and potential election to the state’s top job would affect his career. He is a pilot with American Airlines and a member of the Air Force Reserve.
He said he has discussed the options with both employers. Should he win, he would likely take a leave of absence from the airline. He might be assigned different duties in the Air Force Reserve or retire, he said.
Garrison Nelson, political science professor at the University of Vermont, suggested it took Dubie a long time to make up his mind about running because of the implications for his career — essentially giving up jobs he loves.
“Jim Douglas must have leaned all over him to get him to run,” Nelson said.
Dubie is the Republican Party’s best prospect in the 2010 gubernatorial race, Nelson said. Republicans need a strong candidate to break the jinx of recent history, Nelson added. Since 1960, he said, every change in governor has brought in an officeholder from a different party.
Nelson suggested Dubie hasn’t proven his ability to win a statewide race on his own. He lost his first bid to become lieutenant governor in 2000 against incumbent Racine. Nelson attributed Dubie’s success in his four subsequent runs for lieutenant governor to the “substantial coattails” of Douglas. In 2002, Nelson noted, Progressive Anthony Pollina and Democrat Shumlin split the liberal vote, which allowed Dubie to win with 41 percent.
Douglas disagrees with Nelson’s assessment, arguing Dubie has won four statewide races against “credible opponents.”
“Vermonters like him,” Douglas said.
How does he compare?
Several of Dubie’s potential Democratic opponents suggested a Dubie administration would be more of the same — and Vermonters want change.
“He has worked closely with Douglas all these years,” Markowitz said. “Vermonters are looking for new leadership.”
Racine suggested it would be odd for Dubie to try to separate himself from the policies of the Douglas administration now: “He has always stood there next to the governor. He hasn’t had much to say. He has been very supportive of the governor and his policies.”
“I don’t think that Brian Dubie will be a carbon copy of Jim Douglas, but I don’t know what he will be,” said Martha Abbott, chairwoman of the Vermont Progressive Party. “We will be finding out who he really is.”
Dubie doesn’t see himself as a Douglas clone. “Where it makes sense, I would continue Douglas policies,” he said, citing as an example the Douglas administration’s health care initiatives.
In other areas, Dubie suggested he would set his own course: energy policy, for instance. Dubie also said he hoped to build a better relationship with the Legislature than Douglas has had. He said the budget deadlock in the spring “was a real missed opportunity.”
Dunne, a potential Democratic challenger who lost a 2006 bid to unseat Dubie, paints his former opponent as more conservative than Douglas — and many Vermonters.
“My social agenda has always been to find common ground,” Dubie countered. Referring to two hot-button social issues, abortion and same-sex marriage, Dubie said, “Those issues are behind us.”
Rep. David Zuckerman, P-Burlington, argues Dubie’s views on social issues — opposition to abortion and gay marriage, for example — should be factors in the election: “It does matter in that there are unforeseen situations down the road. Is the governor going to stand up for diversity in our schools? Is the governor going to be silent on education around reproductive freedom in our schools?”
Zuckerman, who helped shepherd a same-sex-marriage bill to enactment this year, added, “I’d like to have a governor going to Washington who says we need these rights extended to our people nationally.”