Potential Rematch In Vermont Democratic AG Race

Jun 23, 2015

There may be a rematch in the race for Vermont Attorney General.  Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan  has announced that he will again seek the Democratic nomination in 2016.  But incumbent Democrat Bill Sorrell has not decided if he will stand for re-election.

T.J. Donovan became Chittenden County State’s attorney in 2006. He challenged current Attorney General Bill Sorrell in 2012, losing the primary by 714 votes.

Donovan  waited until after the Vermont Democratic Party's annual awards dinner last Friday before he announced the launch of his campaign.  He says he’s received a lot of encouragement and support from Vermonters to run.   “I am running for attorney general. I’m seeking the democratic nomination for attorney general for the state of Vermont. I think it’s time for a change. It’s time for new leadership. It’s time for new ideas. I think I have a lot to offer the state of Vermont and hopefully voters feel the same way.”

Asked how he would change the AG’s office, Donovan replied that you must be engaged.  “You have to be working on the behalf of everyday Vermonters. I want to be an attorney general that really is a champion for those everyday Vermonters. To make sure that the law is working for them. That policies that are implemented and laws that are passed in this state benefit and impact Vermonters in a positive way.”

Incumbent Democrat Bill Sorrell says he’s not surprised that Donovan is again running for the state’s top legal office.  “T.J. and I have been communicating for a while and I fully expected him to enter the race for next year.”

Sorrell, who is still pondering a re-election campaign, says Donovan’s entry into the race will have little if any impact on his decision whether to run again.   “It’ll be much more about whether I want to try to continue serving as attorney general, whether I want to go through the politics, raise the money and everything.  But my priority right now is really just to fully cooperate with the investigation of the vice-chair of the Republican party’s allegations that I have violated the state’s campaign finance laws in various ways. I’m looking forward to the truth coming out on that.  Hopefully that investigation will be over by sometime in August and then I’ll start thinking seriously about what 2016 looks like for me.”

Middlebury College Professor emeritus of Political Science Eric Davis believes Sorrell may decide not to run for the seat he has held for 19 years.   “Bill Sorrell is now the subject of a complaint that has been filed regarding campaign financing practices in both the 2012 and 2014 election cycles. Governor Shumlin decided to appoint an independent council to investigate those allegations.  Even if the independent council decides there’s no formal violations as a result of the investigation still I think the news stories about the allegations have been damaging to Sorrell.  More, though, Sorrell has been the attorney general since 1997 and I think other candidates would make the ‘time for a change’ argument if he’s still on the ballot.”

Sorrell says pending the results of the investigation he anticipates making a final decision whether he will run sometime between September and November.

Meanwhile Donovan is planning to make a formal announcement after Labor Day. He says he will focus on several issues including consumer protection, heroin addiction, criminal justice reform, campaign finance and environmental protection.