|81st Governor of Vermont|
January 6, 2011 – January 5, 2017
|Preceded by||Jim Douglas|
|Succeeded by||Phil Scott|
|77th and 79th President pro tempore of the Vermont Senate|
January 3, 2007 – January 5, 2011
|Preceded by||Peter Welch|
|Succeeded by||John Campbell|
January 8, 1997 – January 8, 2003
|Preceded by||Stephen Webster|
|Succeeded by||Peter Welch|
|Member of the Vermont Senate|
from the Windham County district
January 3, 2007 – January 5, 2011
Serving with Jeanette White
|Preceded by||Roderick "Rod" M. Gander|
|Succeeded by||Peter Galbraith|
January 6, 1993 – January 8, 2003
|Preceded by||Robert T. Gannett|
|Succeeded by||Jeanette White|
Roderick "Rod" M. Gander
Peter Elliott Shumlin
March 24, 1956
Brattleboro, Vermont, U.S.
Elizabeth Preston Parsons
(m. 1981, divorced)
(m. 1989; div. 2013)
|Education||Wesleyan University (BA)|
He was first elected to the office in 2010, and was reelected to a second term in 2012. In 2014 he received a narrow plurality in his race for reelection, but did not attain the 50% threshold mandated by the Constitution of Vermont. In such cases the Vermont General Assembly elects the winner. The legislature almost always selects the candidate who received a plurality; this held true, and the General Assembly re-elected Shumlin to a third term by a vote of 110–69 in January 2015. In June 2015, Shumlin announced that he would not seek re-election in 2016.
He signed laws on physician-assisted suicide as well as the United States' first genetically modified food labeling requirement during his tenure as governor. He was chair of the Democratic Governors Association during his first two terms.
He was a member of the Vermont House of Representatives from 1991 to 1993, and represented the Windham District in the Vermont Senate from 1993 to 2003 and again from 2007 to 2011. He was the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Vermont in 2002.
Early life, education and private career
Born in Brattleboro, Vermont, Shumlin went to high school at Buxton School in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and graduated from Wesleyan University in 1979. Shumlin served on Selectboard for the town of Putney in the 1980s and helped found Landmark College, which was created to help people with learning disabilities gain a college education. Shumlin's father, George J. Shumlin, a third-generation American, was Jewish and descended from Russian immigrants; his mother, Kitty A. (Prins) Shumlin, was from The Hague in the Netherlands, and was Protestant.
Early political career
Shumlin was appointed by Governor Madeleine M. Kunin to fill a vacancy in the Vermont House of Representatives. He served part of one term plus one full term, and represented Putney from 1990 through 1993. In 1992, he was elected to the Vermont Senate, and he soon became Minority Leader. In the 1996 elections, Shumlin led his Senate Democrats to win back control of the chamber after four years in the minority, and in 1997 he became Senate President Pro Tempore.
Campaign for lieutenant governor
In 2002, Shumlin won the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, and lost the general election to Republican Brian Dubie of Essex in a three-way race that included Progressive Anthony Pollina of Middlesex.
From 2003 to 2006, Shumlin returned to the Shumlin family business, Putney Student Travel, an educational firm that allows students in middle and high school to travel to foreign countries, learn about different cultures, and prepare for college.
Return to the Vermont Senate
In 2006, Shumlin ran successfully for his old seat in the State Senate upon the retirement of Rod Gander, who served from 2003 to 2007. Upon his return, Shumlin was once again elected President Pro Tempore.
Governor of Vermont
On November 16, 2009, Shumlin announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Vermont. Shumlin placed first in the five-way August 24, 2010 Democratic primary with 18,276 votes (24.48%). The close election saw three other candidates come within 3,000 votes of Shumlin. Former Lieutenant Governor Doug Racine came in second with 18,079 votes (24.22%), Secretary of State of Vermont Deborah Markowitz came in third with 17,579 votes (23.9%) and former State Senator Matt Dunne was fourth with 15,323 votes (20.8%). State Senator Susan Bartlett came in a distant fifth with 3,759 votes (5.1%). Racine requested a recount, which confirmed Shumlin as the winner.
Shumlin was not opposed by a Progressive candidate for governor. The Party had promised not to play a "spoiler" role in the election if he supported single-payer health care, which he did. Vermont Progressive Party Chair Martha Abbott won the primary election, then withdrew from the race, so the party did not have a candidate on the ballot.
In the general election on November 2, 2010, Shumlin received the most votes, 119,543 (49.44%) to Republican Brian Dubie's 115,212 (47.69%). Vermont requires candidates for Governor and some other statewide offices to obtain a majority of popular votes, otherwise the winner is chosen by the Vermont General Assembly. Dubie did not contest the vote in the General Assembly, which almost always chooses the candidate who obtained a plurality in the general election, and on January 6, 2011, the General Assembly elected Shumlin by 145 votes (80.6%) to 28 (15.6%).
Vermont and New Hampshire are the only U.S. states whose governors do not serve four-year terms; rather, their governors are elected every two years, always in even-numbered years.
The 2012 election took place on November 6, 2012. Shumlin, who again was endorsed by organized labor and the major environmental organizations, was unopposed in the Democratic primary and easily won re-election, defeating Republican Randy Brock by 170,749 votes (57.8%) to 110,940 votes (37.6%).
Shumlin was the Democratic nominee for a third term. Republicans nominated businessman Scott Milne, whose mother Marion Carson Milne served in the Vermont House of Representatives, and father Donald was the longtime Assistant Clerk and Clerk of the Vermont House.
In the November 4 election, Shumlin took 46.4% to Milne's 45.1%, with Libertarian nominee Dan Feliciano taking 4.36%. The rest of the votes were scattered among other minor candidates. The Constitution of Vermont requires that the 180-member Vermont General Assembly choose the winner when no candidate receives over 50% of the popular vote. On January 8, 2015, the Assembly chose Shumlin over Milne by 110 votes to 69.
After Shumlin's election in 2010, all of his primary opponents except Dunne subsequently joined his administration. Racine became Secretary of Human Services, Markowitz became Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources and Bartlett became Shumlin's Special Assistant, with responsibility for oversight of education and other policy initiatives.
The defining event of Shumlin's first term was Tropical Storm Irene, which caused almost every river and stream in the state to flood, resulting in at least three deaths and one missing. The storm decimated multiple sections of U.S. Route 4 between Rutland and Quechee, making east/west travel through the southern part of state nearly impossible. Several towns were completely isolated from travel in and out for two weeks. Statewide, the cost of repairs for road and bridge damage alone was estimated to exceed $700 million. This required a substantial re-assessment of Vermont's budget.
- April 26: Shumlin appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show via telephone where he discussed health care reform in his state, his belief in health care for all and that "health care is a right, not a privilege".
- May 26: Shumlin signed a bill to establish a state health care exchange under the Affordable Care Act and to develop future universal insurance coverage for all residents, making Vermont the first state to initiate a plan for single-payer health care.
- August 17: Shumlin became the first sitting governor in the United States to preside over a same-sex wedding ceremony.
- August 27: Shumlin declared a state of emergency, in preparation for the arrival of Tropical Storm Irene. In a joint statement, Vermont electric utilities announced that they planned to have extra staff on hand. The National Weather Service had forecast between 2–7 inches (51–178 mm) of rain in the state, with the risk of flooding near streams and rivers and an anticipated sustained wind speeds of 30–45 miles per hour (48–72 km/h) and gusts of up to 45–65 miles per hour (72–105 km/h), with expected significant tree damage and damage to power lines.
- January 5: In his State of the State Address, Shumlin touted Vermont's policies to promote job growth, claiming a 62% increase over the previous year to bring the state's unemployment rate down to 5.3% from a recession peak of 7.3%—both cited as low numbers in his speech.
- April 11: Shumlin was almost mauled by bears when he attempted to chase them away from raiding bird feeders on his property. Shumlin joked that Vermont "almost lost the governor," and added that he was within "three feet of getting 'arrrh."
- May 16: Shumlin signed a bill banning hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), the breaking of underground rock formations by using pressurized chemical-laced fluid in order to access natural gas deposits. The bill made Vermont the first state to pass such a ban, and was signed in front of group of high school students who pushed for it.
- December 4: Shumlin was unanimously elected to serve as the chair of the Democratic Governors Association for the year, 2013.
Summary of term
Shumlin has been an opponent of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant. His administration advocated its closure. However, on January 19, 2012, Judge J. Garvan Murtha of United States District Court in Brattleboro ruled that the state of Vermont could not force Vermont Yankee to close down, as the legislation that attempted to do so was based on radiological safety arguments that are the exclusive concern of the NRC. The judge also held that the state cannot force the plant's owner, Entergy, to sell electricity from the reactor to in-state utilities at reduced rates as a condition of continued operation. However, on August 27, 2013, Entergy announced in a press release that it would close Vermont Yankee by the end of 2014.
Shumlin has also been an advocate of single-payer health care. In 2011, the Vermont Legislature created a single-payer plan, called Green Mountain Care, which caused Vermont to become the first state to explore this concept. While the bill also allows private insurers to operate in the state indefinitely As of January 2014, Shumlin remained committed to full implementation of single-payer health care, starting in 2017. In the interim, Vermont has been a willing participant in the Affordable Care Act. As was the case with the federal health-exchange website, Vermont's website, VermontHealthConnect.gov, also experienced difficulties as the deadline for implementation approached in late 2013; it was the product of the same software vendor.
In his January 2014 State of the State Address, Shumlin emphasized a single theme: the rise of opiate addiction in Vermont. He framed the challenge of opiate abuse as greater in scope than the recovery from Tropical Storm Irene. He offered a four-point plan to address opiate growth:
- Fund more treatment to shorten wait times for those willing to accept help.
- Allow drug offenders to quickly enter treatment programs when they are ready to change their behavior, bypassing the normal judicial process to allow rapid treatment.
- Tougher punishments for drug-runners and armed burglars.
- Crowdsourcing new ideas to prevent addiction.
Shumlin observed that, "It's when the blue lights are flashing and cold reality sets in that we have our best shot [at persuading opiate users to seek treatment]".
- January 10: Shumlin gave a State of the State Address that emphasized improving education from kindergarten through college in Vermont in order to make the Vermont labor force more appealing to prospective employers.
- May 22: Shumlin signed a bill making physician assisted suicide legal throughout Vermont.
- June 6: Vermont became the 17th state to decriminalize cannabis. Shumlin signed a bill that made possession of less than an ounce of the drug punishable by a small fine rather than arrest and possible jail time.
- December 9: He was re-elected in December 2013 to be chair of the Democratic Governors Association for the year, 2014.
- January 8: Shumlin gave a State of the State Address with a single theme—the rising rate of opiate abuse in Vermont.
- January 15: A Shumlin administration official, Mark Larson, announced that the Vermont Health Connect website implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act was unavailable to small businesses enrollments, requiring direct enrollments with insurance companies until further notice.
On June 8, 2015, Shumlin announced he would not seek a fourth term in 2016.
In contrast to other governors, who stated that they would attempt to turn away refugees fleeing the violence of the Syrian Civil War, Shumlin stated that Vermont would continue to welcome refugees. Shumlin said that the screening process weeded out people "who should not be accepted" and criticized governors who attempted to stop relocation, saying: "The governors who are taking those actions are stomping on the qualities that make America great, which is reaching out to folks when they're in trouble and offering them help, not hurting them."
During his term in office, Shumlin issued a total of 208 pardons, the most of any Vermont governor. Most of these were issued in January 2017, when Shumlin (in one of his final official acts as governor) granted a pardon to 192 people convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession in Vermont. In the previous month, Shumlin had extended an offer for people with marijuana possession convictions to apply for a pardon, and about 450 had applied. The pardons were extended only "to people who had no violent criminal histories or felony convictions, and who had not been found guilty of driving under the influence or reckless driving."
Shumlin is adamantly pro-choice, and drew a contrast between himself and his 2010 Republican gubernatorial opponent Brian Dubie, who would not answer the question of whether or not he would cut funding for low-income abortions when pressed by Shumlin during the two candidates' televised debates. Shumlin held a pro-choice rally two days prior to the election, prompting his opponent to host a pro-jobs rally on the same day to draw a contrast between the two candidates' priorities.
On May 8, 2015, Shumlin signed a genetically modified food (GMO) labeling bill. The legislation would mean that some products that are sold within the state of Vermont must have labeling that says that the product "may be partially produced with genetic engineering."
Real estate controversy
In May 2013, Shumlin was involved in a real estate transaction, which generated controversy. A neighbor, who owned a house and land adjacent to Shumlin's East Montpelier home, owed back taxes and risked losing the property in a tax sale, asked Shumlin to consider buying the property. Shumlin bought the property, had the assessed value reduced because the house was in disrepair, paid the back taxes, paid the neighbor's back child support, and allowed the neighbor to continue living in the house for several months. The neighbor then had second thoughts about the transaction. After some criticism in the press, Shumlin agreed to let the neighbor repurchase the property.
|Vermont House of Representatives Windham 1 District election, 1990|
|Republican||David Hannum, Jr.||655||12.6|
|Liberty Union||Nancy Egan Sternbach||133||2.6|
|Vermont State Senate Windham District election, 1992|
|Liberty Union||Guido Condosta||357||1.0|
|Liberty Union||Terence Sellaro||315||0.9|
|Vermont State Senate Windham District election, 1994|
|Democratic||Peter Shumlin (incumbent)||7,469||29.6|
|Liberty Union||Fred Herbert||308||1.2|
|Liberty Union||Ki Longfellow||198||0.8|
|Vermont State Senate Windham District election, 1996|
|Democratic/Republican||Nancy Chard (incumbent)||13,070||45.5|
|Democratic/Republican||Peter Shumlin (incumbent)||12,893||45.3|
|Liberty Union||Fred Herbert||1,344||4.7|
|Liberty Union||Ki Longfellow||989||3.4|
|Vermont State Senate Windham District election, 1998|
|Democratic||Nancy Chard (incumbent)||7,976||29.4|
|Democratic||Peter Shumlin (incumbent)||7,580||28.2|
|Liberty Union||Steven K-Brooks||567||2.1|
|Vermont State Senate Windham District election, 2000|
|Democratic||Peter Shumlin (incumbent)||9,827||27.0|
|Democratic||Nancy Chard (incumbent)||9,305||25.6|
|Liberty Union||Aaron Diamondstone||624||1.7|
|Vermont Lieutenant Governor election, 2002|
|Vermont Grassroots||Sally Ann Jones||4,310||1.9|
|Vermont State Senate Windham District election, 2006|
|Liberty Union||Aaron Diamondstone||1,562||5.8|
|Liberty Union||Benjamin Mitchell||1,505||5.5|
|Vermont State Senate Windham District election, 2008|
|Democratic||Peter Shumlin (incumbent)||14,866||47.8|
|Democratic||Jeanette White (incumbent)||13,531||43.5|
|Liberty Union||Aaron Diamondstone||2,464||7.9|
|Vermont Governor Democratic primary election, 2010|
|Vermont Governor election, 2010|
|U.S. Marijuana||Cris Ericson||1,819||0.8|
|Liberty Union||Ben Mitchell||429||0.2|
|Vermont Governor election, 2012|
|Democratic||Peter Shumlin (incumbent)||170,569||58.0|
|U.S. Marijuana||Cris Ericson||5,580||1.9|
|Liberty Union||Dave Eagle||1,297||0.4|
|Vermont Governor Democratic primary election, 2014|
|Democratic||Peter Shumlin (incumbent)||15,260||77.0|
|Vermont Governor election, 2014|
|Democratic||Peter Shumlin (incumbent)||89,509||46.5|
|Liberty Union||Pete Diamondstone||1,673||0.9|
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a politician who rode to the governorship on the promise of enacting the nation's first single-payer system.
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- Jennifer Reading, WCAX-TV, Vt. Man Claims Governor Took Advantage of Him in Land Deal Archived 2013-06-09 at the Wayback Machine, May 22, 2013
- Peter Hirschfeld, Rutland Herald, Shumlin Land Buy Questioned Archived 2013-06-17 at the Wayback Machine, May 24, 2013
- Paul Heniotz, Seven Days, A Neighbor in Need: Jeremy Dodge Hopes to Stay Put on Shumlin's Land Archived 2014-01-06 at the Wayback Machine, May 24, 2013
- Peter Hirschfeld, Rutland Herald, After Sale to Governor, Regrets for Dodge Archived 2013-08-21 at the Wayback Machine, May 22, 2013
- Terri Hallenbeck, Burlington Free Press, Lawyer: Shumlin Willing to Sell Land Back to Neighbor, June 5, 2013
- Associated Press, Boston Globe, Neighbor in dispute with Vt. Governor Hires Lawyer, June 11, 2013
- Dave Gram, Associated Press, Valley News, Shumlin Willing To Void Sale Archived 2016-01-23 at the Wayback Machine, June 6, 2013
- Andrew Stein, Vermont Digger, Dodge Can Buy Back Property From Shumlin For About $30,000, Lawyers Say Archived 2013-08-18 at the Wayback Machine, July 18, 2013
- Kristin Carlson, WCAX-TV, East Montpelier Man Gets Property Back From Governor Archived 2013-09-15 at the Wayback Machine, August 13, 2013
- Associated Press, Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus, Dodge Gets Land Back From Gov. Archived 2014-01-16 at the Wayback Machine, August 14, 2014