Gov. Peter Shumlin is set to become the next chair of the Democratic Governors Association. The group holds its annual meeting in Los Angeles on Tuesday, and Shumlin faces no opposition from other candidates. He is backed by outgoing chairman and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.
Shumlin will be the fourth Vermont governor to hold a leadership position in a national gubernatorial association. Richard Snelling, Howard Dean, and Jim Douglas all chaired either their party’s governors associations or the National Governors Association. Dean and Snelling led both.
At a press conference last week, Shumlin said he would use the chairmanship as an opportunity to absorb and share policy ideas.
Shumlin says his fundraising role with the organization would be limited, as he’d requested that O’Malley act as finance chair for the group, which traditionally solicits money from major corporations.
“I feel that it’s a real opportunity for us to, not only learn well, to learn a lot from other governors – what’s working well, what’s not working well – but also to share what we’re doing in Vermont,” Shumlin said in Montpelier last week.
He said his fundraising role with the organization would be limited, as he’d requested that O’Malley act as finance chair for the group, which traditionally solicits money from major corporations. According to Federal Election Commission filings, the Super PAC DGA Action raised $2.39 million from July 2011 to October 2012.
Shumlin said he’d likely solicit businesses for donations to the DGA, as he already does for other political campaigns in his role as CEO Roundtable Chair for the DGA, but he doesn’t see the top job as primarily a fundraising position.
“What I really will do as the leader of the organization is focus on policy initiatives that will make a difference for Democratic governors, as well as to ensure that we elect more Democratic governors, particularly in 2014,” he said.
Shumlin said he’d continue to devote most of his time to his gubernatorial duties in Vermont.
Retired political scientist Eric Davis said fundraising will be a major focus for any DGA chair, whatever role the finance chair and others may play. Davis said that fundraising is especially important given the non-presidential 2014 elections, when 36 states will hold gubernatorial elections, many for four year terms.
“Maybe the direct ask will come from somebody else,” said Davis. “But I’m sure he’ll spend some time with donors.”
Shumlin’s chief of staff Bill Lofy will also join the DGA, starting in January, as a senior adviser on gubernatorial campaigns nationwide. Lofy says his own move to the organization will help Shumlin balance his work as governor and DGA.
Shumlin’s bid indicates he is confident about his chances for electoral success in 2014, Davis says.
“When Gov. Shumlin was elected in 2010, he knew that the DGA had played a crucial role in ensuring his election,” said Lofy. “They were great partners to him, and he felt from the beginning that it was a great organization. He has been an active voice, an active governor in the association, and this [chairmanship] really is an extension of that.”
Shumlin’s success in his first two year term with the DGA, continued Davis, would ultimately be determined by how many Democratic governors win 2014 races. Republicans now hold 29 out of 50 gubernatorial seats; Democrats have 20 governors’ offices. There is one independent.
Davis said the role could also help enhance Shumlin’s network of national political contacts, which could be useful if Shumlin has aspirations to enter national politics. The DGA chairmanship would do little to benefit ordinary Vermonters or the state as a whole, he said.
Shumlin’s bid indicates he is confident about his chances for electoral success in 201, Davis says.
“The tradition, and this applies to both the DGA and the RGA, is that the person who serves as chair is someone who doesn’t have to worry about his or her own re-election,” said Davis.“Somebody who may be worried about his or her own re-election wants to spend time on their own race, rather than helping other colleagues,” he said.
The two day conference at the sold out Beverly Wilshire hotel will feature policy discussions as well as a holiday party and VIP reception.
The following video of Shumlin is from a press conference last week in which he talked about the chairmanship with reporters.