T.J. Donovan launched his campaign for attorney general Thursday with promises to build a level playing field for all Vermonters, with particular compassion toward marginalized people.
“Here’s my pledge to you as attorney general,” Donovan said to a packed room of top Democrats at the St. John’s Club in Burlington. “No more gotcha politics. No hypocrisy. Just service.”
“I will be the people’s lawyer who stands up for every Vermonter, regardless of who they are or where they’re from,” the Chittenden County State’s attorney continued, spinning the crowd into cheers.
Donovan said he would use the attorney general’s civil rights division to ensure equal treatment. He said he would prioritize cleanup of Lake Champlain, help small businesses to navigate state regulations, and change the attitude of state prosecutors.
He also called for an end to the private prison contracts that Vermont uses to house its prisoners out of state, naming the issue as “the moral test of our generation in this state.”
Storm clouds cleared over the St. John’s Club and Lake Champlain just before Donovan’s kickoff began. He took it as a sign.
Donovan, 41, could be looking at clear skies for the campaign as well: No other candidate has joined the race thus far, and Donovan’s 2012 Democratic opponent, longtime Attorney General Bill Sorrell, has stepped aside.
“That changes the perspective, it changes the strategy,” Donovan said in an interview after his speech. “And it’s a bit of a feeling of relief, to be honest with you.”
In 2012, Donovan nearly ousted Sorrell in the primary. Sorrell eked out the Democratic nomination by 714 votes.
Donovan sat out the 2014 attorney general race — only to return for another attempt this year with a deep list of endorsements that took up half of the poster for his campaign kickoff and filled his event to the point that the fire marshal was called.
He boasts the support of a trio of former governors — Phil Hoff, Madeleine Kunin and Tom Salmon — plus Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger and many other lawmakers.
Weinberger quoted the Irish poet William Butler Yeats when he gave Donovan his blessing: “Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot, but make it hot by striking.”
Donovan has been a key player in Vermont’s response to opiate addiction. He also led a massive “Driver Restoration Day” this year, with Gov. Peter Shumlin, to allow people to pay traffic tickets and regain a valid driver license.
Donovan is married to Jessica McCloud, and they live in South Burlington with their two children. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Merrimack College and a law degree from Suffolk University.
No other attorney-general candidates had registered with the Vermont Secretary of State as of Thursday. Shane McCormack, the 2014 Republican candidate for attorney general, has decided not to run again.
“We’ve had a couple of people express an interest in running for attorney general as a Republican, nobody whose name I could mention,” said Vermont Republican Party Chairman Dave Sunderland. He repeated the party’s refrain that Vermonters want “to bring some balance back to Montpelier.”
This article was first published online Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015. Contact April Burbank at 802-660-1863 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/AprilBurbank