The three living Democratic governors of Vermont, Bernie Sanders’ home state, all have endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, as has the senior U.S. Senator from Vermont, Patrick Leahy. Vermont’s lone Congressman, Peter Welch, remains neutral. Let’s zero in on the three governors and what their choices say.
Madeleine Kunin is a trail blazer. Elected governor in 1985, Kunin is the first and only female governor of Vermont. She was the first Jewish governor of Vermont. She was the first woman in U.S. history to be elected governor three times. Kunin upended the hold that male WASPs long had over Vermont politics. As governor, she created Vermont’s successful Dr. Dynasaur health care program for children.
Born in Zurich, a six-year-old Kunin left Switzerland with her mother and brother at the beginning of World War II because of the increasing threat to Jews in Europe. President Bill Clinton named her Ambassador to Switzerland, and she writes movingly in The Forward about her experience with anti-Semitism in the country of her birth while she served as ambassador. It’s worth a read.
Howard Dean served at governor of Vermont for almost 12 years, all while Sanders was in the U.S. House. A medical doctor, Dean expanded health care coverage for children as governor.
Dean’s campaign for president ignited in 2003 with a rousing speech at the Democratic National Committee’s winter meeting in which he proclaimed, “I’m here to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.” He drew massive crowds at campaign rallies. After losing the Democratic nomination to John Kerry, Dean founded the liberal grassroots group Democracy for American (which has endorsed Bernie Sanders) and then successfully ran for chair of the DNC where he implemented a 50-state strategy.
Peter Shumlin took the Vermont governor’s office back for Democrats in the 2010 election. Re-elected in 2012 and 2014 (as in New Hampshire, governors serve two-year terms in Vermont), Shumlin tried to implement a single-payer health system in Vermont, but pulled the plug last year after a report showed it would double the state’s budget.
Some have suggested that the reason the three Vermont governors are not supporting Sanders is they committed to Clinton before he entered the race. But all three have campaigned for Clinton in New Hampshire since Sanders announced his candidacy.
No doubt supporters of Sanders chalk up the endorsements of Kunin, Dean and Shumlin as another example of the political establishment rallying behind Clinton because Sanders is a threat to their power. But it’s hard to look at the causes these three have championed in public life and believe that. Moreover, the lives of Kunin and Dean are no longer, if they ever were, dependent on any establishment, and, given the popularity of Sanders in Vermont, Shumlin may be risking his political future by supporting Clinton.
Kunin, Dean and Shumlin have refrained from attacking Sanders. But each has made it clear they believe Clinton would be a more effective president. Dean: “All this has made Hillary more than the best person for the toughest job in the world. I want her as my president, and I trust her to do the kind of job that is necessary in a very tough world.” Kunin: “He’s making a lot of promises. The question will be, is he really qualified? I’m glad he’s running, I think he’ll liven up the debates, certainly, and I think he’ll really underline and emphasize these central issues, which is good for the country.” Shumlin: “She quietly pulls people together and gets things done. Even though that’s not in vogue right now, I think that’s what voters will want in the end.”
Kunin, Dean and Shumlin know what it takes to be a chief executive. And they have chosen Hillary Clinton.
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