Galbraith, Campbell look into run for governor
By LOUIS PORTER Vermont Press Bureau | October 17,2007
MONTPELIER — As Vermont Democrats look for a candidate to challenge incumbent Gov. James Douglas next year, they could get help from an unexpected source. Peter Galbraith, the former diplomat and Iraq war author, is in the early stages of considering a run for governor.
State Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin and Galbraith talked Monday about the possibility, the two men confirmed Tuesday.
While Galbraith said he is not close to making a decision to run, he also did not rule it out.
“I will give it some thought,” said Galbraith, who was somewhat reluctant to talk about the possibility of a campaign before he had given it more consideration. “I love Vermont and I care about the state.”
State Sen. John Campbell, D-Windsor and Senate majority leader, also said Tuesday he is mulling over the possibility of running for governor.
Shumlin said either of the two would make a strong candidate.
“Peter Galbraith is an incredibly articulate, bright and capable person who would bring leadership to the governor’s office of the state of Vermont,” Shumlin said. “This was me approaching him and it is a very preliminary discussion.”
The two men, both from Windham County, have known each other for years, Shumlin said.
Galbraith, a diplomat who worked in President Bill Clinton’s administration, has lived in Vermont much of his life and remains a resident of Townshend.
But while he has become well-known in national political circles, Galbraith has also been out of Vermont state politics for decades. The son of economist John Kenneth Galbraith, Peter Galbraith, 56, was the Vermont Democratic Party’s chairman from 1977-79.
As the United States’ first ambassador to Croatia, Galbraith was a central figure in the peace process between that country and Bosnia.
He has since emerged as a leading critic of the Bush administration’s approach in Iraq.
“If George Bush had listened to Peter Galbraith we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in now,” Shumlin said.
If a Democrat wins election to the White House — something he considers likely — and Democrats maintain control of Congress it could benefit Vermont to have a Democrat as governor, Galbraith said.
“I think the Republicans are in more trouble now than they have been at any time since 1931,” he said. “Things are going to change dramatically in 2008. There is an opportunity for Vermont to do something in terms of health care, the environment and energy.”
The fact that Douglas, a Republican, handily won re-election in 2006 even as Democrats increased their majority in the State House of Representatives and State Senate appears to be making it more difficult for Democrats in Vermont to find a candidate. In addition only one challenger — Democrat Philip Hoff — has beaten a sitting Vermont governor in modern memory.
Rob Roper, chairman of the Vermont Republican Party, declined to comment on the possibility of a Galbraith candidacy or the Democrats internal machinations.
Until now Matthew Dunne, who ran for lieutenant governor against Brian Dubie last election cycle, has been the only Democrat openly expressing interest in running against Douglas in 2008. With more than a year to go, it is possible other Democrats will decide to get in the race.
Campbell said Tuesday he is also considering a run for the state’s top political job.
“I have been approached and I am contemplating the possibility,” Campbell said.
“It is a huge undertaking. Whenever you are going up against a popular incumbent it poses a concern for somebody who might want to run against him.”
There has been talk among Democrats, Progressives and independents of finding a “unity” candidate who could gather support from all sides to challenge Douglas.
State Sen. Vincent Illuzzi, a Republican from the Northeast Kingdom who is considering running as an independent, and Anthony Pollina, a Progressive, have both been mentioned as possible candidates.
Shumlin said opponents of the Douglas administration must find such a unity candidate if they have a chance of unseating the governor. During the past two elections there have not been Progressive candidates in the race and Douglas has won re-election.
Pollina said recently he would travel the state and gauge interest in his candidacy before making a decision.
In a statement released Tuesday, Pollina said he would hold a meeting in Burlington on Thursday evening to outline “A New Vision for Vermont in 2008.”
“I’m reminding them of the unique position we are in here in Vermont to make some real changes,” Pollina said in the statement. “Universal healthcare can be done; we can create small businesses and jobs that will keep Vermont beautiful and affordable, and agriculture can help us with our energy crisis.”
Some Democratic leaders, including Campbell, have said it is important for their party to have a Democratic candidate.
“I think it is extremely important for the Vermont Democratic Party to put up a Democrat candidate in the gubernatorial race,” Campbell said.
Galbraith said he will continue to think about running.
“I have always been interested in public life, in public policy and that is what I have done,” Galbraith said. But he reiterated that he is far from announcing his candidacy.
“I am just articulating the views of a citizen who believes there is a significant opportunity for a change,” he said.
Meanwhile Galbraith is writing a follow-up to his last book, “The End of Iraq.” The new book, “Unintended Consequences,” will look at the effect of the war on Iraq, neighboring countries and the United States.
As Galbraith is considering his plans, the Turkish government is moving toward a possible invasion of Northern Iraq, a region of the country dominated by Kurds where Galbraith has traveled and worked extensively.
“A full scale Turkish invasion would upset the one stable, pro-Western, reasonably democratic part of Iraq,” he said. “It could bring chaos to the one success story and it could do huge further damage to U.S.-Turkish relations”