James Henry Douglas (born June 21, 1951) is an American politician from the U.S. state of Vermont. A Republican, he was elected the 80th Governor of Vermont in 2002 and was reelected three times with a majority of the vote. He left the office in January 2011. On August 27, 2009, Douglas announced that he would not seek re-election for a fifth term in 2010. On January 3, 2011, Douglas became an executive in residence at Middlebury College where he taught a 24 student course titled Vermont Government and Politics.
Douglas was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1968, he graduated from East Longmeadow High School, East Longmeadow, Massachusetts. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, where he had been active in the College Republicans.
At Middlebury College, Douglas was a Russian Studies major. Vermont maintains a sister-state relationship with Karelia, Russia, though this relationship was started in 1991 under the governorship of Madeline Kunin.
In November 1972, Douglas was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives, where he became the House Majority Leader during his third two-year term at the age of 25. He left the Vermont General Assembly in 1979, afterwards serving as a top aide to Governor Richard A. Snelling. Douglas was elected Secretary of State in November 1980, a post which he held until 1992.
That year he sought election to the U.S. Senate, but was defeated by Democratic incumbent Patrick Leahy. In November 1994 he was elected State Treasurer, after receiving the endorsement of both major parties.
Governor of Vermont
In the 2002 gubernatorial election to succeed five-term Governor Howard Dean, Douglas defeated Democratic Lieutenant Governor Doug Racine, 45 to 42 percent. The Vermont constitution requires that the state legislature select who is to become governor if no candidate receives over 50% of the votes. Because neither candidate won 50% of the vote, Douglas was officially selected by the legislature as required by the state constitution.
Douglas won reelection to a second two-year term in 2004, defeating Democrat Peter Clavelle, 59 to 38 percent.
In early 2005, Douglas announced that he would not run against Democratic-leaning independent Jim Jeffords in the 2006 Senate race. In April 2005, Jeffords announced that he would not seek re-election, which led to speculation that Douglas would throw his hat into the ring against Vermont independent Congressman Bernie Sanders, who had announced his candidacy for the seat. On April 30, Douglas announced again that he would not seek Jeffords' seat, and simultaneously announced that he would run for re-election for governor in 2006. Many pundits believed that Douglas was the only Republican who could possibly defeat Sanders, and his decision to run for governor effectively handed the open Senate seat to Sanders. Douglas was re-elected governor with 57% of the vote over Democrat Scudder Parker.
On May 22, 2007, Governor Douglas signed a landmark civil rights bill banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity by employers, financial institutions, housing, public accommodations, and other contexts.
This bill had already passed both chambers of the legislature by a veto-proof majority, so a veto would not have been able to prevent this bill from becoming law. Douglas had previously vetoed a similar bill in 2006. Douglas decided to stand for re-election in 2008 and ran unopposed in the Republican primary on September 9, 2008. His principal challengers in the general election were Independent/Progressive Anthony Pollina, and Democrat Gaye Symington. Douglas won a fourth term, although with his lowest percentage since his initial narrow victory over Doug Racine.
Douglas became the first governor to meet with President Barack Obama in the White House on February 2, 2009.
He also served as Chairman of the National Governors Association from 2009 to 2010. On April 6, 2009 Douglas vetoed the bill allowing marriage for same sex couples in Vermont. The Vermont House and Senate overrode the veto the next day, marking the first time Douglas had been overridden during his tenure. On June 2, 2009, Democrats in the Vermont House and Senate voted to override Douglas's veto of the Vermont state budget. On August 27, 2009, Douglas announced that he would not seek re-election in 2010.
In early 2010, Douglas became the first American political leader to receive the National Order of Quebec from the government of Quebec and Premier Jean Charest at a ceremony at the Quebec National Assembly. He was recognized for strengthening Vermont's historical bonds with Quebec and making improved relations with the province a priority of his governorship. Douglas remains popular among Vermonters. As of June 17, 2010 his approval rating stood at 65 percent.