AG Bill Sorrell will not seek re-election

Editor’s note: This article was updated at 5:23 p.m.

[V]ermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell announced Monday that he will not seek another term in 2016.

“I served for attorney general for just under 20 years,” Sorrell told VTDigger. “I don’t know what the next chapter will look like, but I’m looking forward to doing something different.”

Sorrell, a Democrat, has served as Vermont’s top law enforcement official for 18 years, having been appointed by Gov. Howard Dean in 1997.

Sorrell is awaiting the outcome of an independent investigation of alleged campaign finance violations. Gov. Peter Shumlin appointed former state Rep. Tom Little to conduct the probe.

The charges against Sorrell were levied by Brady Toensing, vice chairman of the Vermont Republican Party, and claim that Sorrell coordinated with a super PAC, failed to report campaign expenditures on 16 occasions, improperly coordinated campaign activities with Dean Corren in 2014 and received a large campaign donation from a law firm he later hired.

Sorrell, 68, said his decision was not based on the investigation.

“I told people close to me back in 2010 that I was going to serve two more terms,” Sorrell said. “ The investigation played no part in this decision.”

Sorrell said he decided to announce his retirement Monday to allow other potential candidates to organize their campaigns.

Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan, who lost the Democratic primary to Sorrell in 2012, has already entered the 2016 race for AG. No Republicans have declared.

Donovan said he received a text message from Sorrell on Monday before the official announcement. Donovan declined to speak about what Sorrell’s retirement would mean for his prospects in the race for attorney general, and said the day should be focused on Sorrell’s accomplishments.

“He served the public, and with that comes good days and trying days,” Donovan said. “But his commitment to our state never wavered.”

Sorrell spoke highly of Donovan, but said he had not decided whether he would make an endorsement in the race.

“I look forward to seeing the different visions of where this office can be,” he said.

David Sunderland, chairman of the Vermont GOP, said the party had not settled on a candidate for attorney general in 2016, but that a number of people have expressed interest.

“I believe that Vermonters are looking for change in the upcoming 2016 election, and the news that the incumbent attorney general is not seeking re-election will help to facilitate some of that change,” Sunderland said. “We will continue to actively recruit candidates for that office.”

In a statement, Gov. Peter Shumlin touched on Sorrell’s work for the state and thanked him for his service.

“Bill Sorrell has dedicated much of his professional life to serving Vermonters, protecting consumers, and ensuring justice is served,” Shumlin said. “From taking on big tobacco to protecting Vermont’s environment and health to fighting to ensure Vermonters have the right to know what is in their food, Bill Sorrell has consistently fought to protect Vermonters and make this state a better place.”

Sorrell’s term ends in January 2017.

Text of Attorney General Bill Sorrell’s announcement:

It has been my honor and pleasure to serve the people of Vermont as Attorney General for well over eighteen years. I announce today that I will not be a candidate for re-election in 2016.

I look forward to continuing to work hard, along with the very talented lawyers and other staff of the Attorney General’s Office, on the many important issues we presently confront and those we will confront during the next fifteen months.

I am proud of my office and its many accomplishments. I am deeply grateful for the support I have received and continue to receive from so many Vermonters.

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Jasper Craven

About Jasper

Jasper Craven is a freelance reporter for VTDigger.

A Vermont native, he first discovered his love for journalism at the Caledonian Record. He double-majored in print journalism and political science at Boston University, and worked in the Boston Globe’s Metro and Investigative units. While at the Globe he collaborated on Shadow Campus, a three-part investigative series focused on greed and mismanagement in Boston’s off-campus student housing market. The series was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize.
He also spent two years at MuckRock, a news site dedicated to investigation and analysis of government documents. 

Craven covered Vermont’s U.S. congressional delegation for the Times Argus in the summer of 2014, and worked as a Metro reporter for the Chicago Tribune before joining the staff of VTDigger from 2015-2017.

Email: [email protected]

Follow Jasper on Twitter @Jasper_Craven

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