The Democratic primary candidates for Vermont Attorney General, TJ Donovan and Bill Sorrell, have dominated headlines over the last four weeks or so. But lately Jack McMullen, the GOP candidate for the General Election race, who won’t face off with the winner of the Democratic contest until the day after the primary Aug. 29, has been trying to get a little press attention, too.
McMullen was on Vermont Public Radio last month, and on WDEV’s Mark Johnson Show just this last week.
The former candidate for U.S. Senate is most famous for his trouncing in the 1998 Republican primary by Fred Tuttle, the aged star of the John O’Brien movie “Man With a Plan.” Back then, when dairy farming was more of a dominant force in the Vermont economy, Tuttle successfully painted McMullen as a millionaire carpetbagger from Massachusetts. In a debate on VPR, the Thetford farmer asked McMullen how many teats are on a cow. His answer: Six. (Four was the correct response.) The story went viral, and McMullen, who had hoped to challenge Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy that year, lost. Tuttle endorsed Leahy in the General Election.
In 2004, McMullen got his wish. He went head to head with Leahy and lost in a landslide. Leahy garnered 70 percent of the vote; about 24.7 percent of ballots cast went to McMullen.
Fourteen years after his first humiliating defeat and eight years after he lost to Leahy, McMullen is back in the political fray — this time with the hopes of taking over the biggest law firm in Vermont — the attorney general’s office.
In these two interviews with Mark Johnson, McMullen recounts his childhood in Staten Island and how his father’s illness (he had rheumatic fever as a child, and later a debilitating battle with heart disease) shaped his views on social programs (he says his family never sought public assistance). After he graduated from high school, McMullen worked for Admiral Hyman Rickover, the “father of the nuclear Navy,” and later went to Harvard Business School and Law School.
McMullen has been a successful lawyer and has licenses to practice in New York state, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. He now bills himself as a Burlington businessman. (McMullen is seeking a waiver from the Vermont bar to practice law in the Green Mountains.)
If he is elected in November, McMullen says his No. 1 priority will be to “reorientate” the Vermont Attorney General’s Office. He believes crime, especially drug-related crime, is the biggest issue facing Vermonters who “don’t feel comfortable” in their own homes. He described Bill Sorrell as an “appellate attorney” who is no longer on top of the issues that are most important to Vermonters.