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Peter Elliott Shumlin (born March 24, 1956) is an American politician from Vermont. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as the 81st Governor of Vermont from 2011 to 2017. [1] He was first elected to the office in 2010, he 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.[2] 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.[3] In June 2015, Shumlin announced that he would not seek re-election in 2016.[4] He has 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.

Peter Shumlin
Peter Shumlin by Gage Skidmore.jpg
81st Governor of Vermont
In office
January 6, 2011 – January 5, 2017
LieutenantPhil Scott
Preceded byJim Douglas
Succeeded byPhil Scott
77th and 79th President pro tempore of the Vermont Senate
In office
January 2007 – January 2011
Preceded byPeter Welch
Succeeded byJohn Campbell
In office
January 1997 – January 2003
Preceded byStephen Webster
Succeeded byPeter Welch
Personal details
Peter Elliott Shumlin

(1956-03-24) March 24, 1956 (age 63)
Brattleboro, Vermont, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Preston Parsons (1981–198?)
Deborah Holway (1989–2013)
Katie Hunt (2015–present)
EducationWesleyan University (BA)

He was a member of the Vermont House of Representatives from 1990 to 1993, and represented the Windham District in the Vermont Senate from 1993 to 2003 and 2007 to 2011. He was the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Vermont in 2002.[5][6]


Personal life, education and private careerEdit

Shumlin was born in Brattleboro, Vermont.[7] He went to high school at Buxton School in Williamstown, Massachusetts,[8] and graduated from Wesleyan University in 1979.[9] 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.[7][10][11][12][13]

Early political careerEdit

Vermont LegislatureEdit

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.[14] In 1992, he was elected to the Vermont Senate,[15] and he soon became Minority Leader.[16] 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.[17]

Campaign for lieutenant governorEdit

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.[18]

Political hiatusEdit

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.[19]

Return to the Vermont SenateEdit

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.[20]

Governor of VermontEdit

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.

First termEdit

2010 electionEdit

Shumlin in 2010

On November 16, 2009, Shumlin announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Vermont.[21] 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%).[22] Racine requested a recount,[23] 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.[24] 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.[25]

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%).[26] 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.[27] 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%).[28][29][30]

Summary of termEdit

After Shumlin's election in 2010, all of his primary opponents except Dunne subsequently joined his administration. Racine became Secretary of Human Services,[31] Markowitz became Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources[32] and Bartlett became Shumlin's Special Assistant, with responsibility for oversight of education and other policy initiatives.[33]

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.[34][35] 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.[36] This required a substantial re-assessment of Vermont's budget.[37]

2011 eventsEdit

  • 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.[38]
  • August 17: Shumlin became the first sitting governor in the United States to preside over a same-sex wedding ceremony.[39]
  • August 27: Shumlin declared a state of emergency, in preparation for the arrival of Tropical Storm Irene.[40] In a joint statement, Vermont electric utilities announced that they planned to have extra staff on hand.[41] 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.[42]

2012 eventsEdit

  • 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.[43]
  • 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."[44]
  • 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.[45]
  • December 4: Shumlin was unanimously elected to serve as the chair of the Democratic Governors Association for the year, 2013.[46]

Second termEdit

2012 electionEdit

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 170,767 votes (58%) to 110,953 votes (37.7%).

Summary of termEdit

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.[47] However, on August 27, 2013, Entergy announced in a press release that it would close Vermont Yankee by the end of 2014.[48]

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,[49] which caused Vermont to become the first state to explore this concept.[50][51][52][53] While the bill also allows private insurers to operate in the state indefinitely[54] As of January 2014, Shumlin remained committed to full implementation of single-payer health care, starting in 2017.[55] 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,,[56] also experienced difficulties as the deadline for implementation approached in late 2013; it was the product of the same software vendor.[57][58]

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:[59]

  • 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]".[60]

2013 eventsEdit

Shumlin meeting with Barack Obama and Mike Pence at the White House in 2013
  • 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.[61]
  • May 22: Shumlin signed a bill making physician assisted suicide legal throughout Vermont.[62]
  • 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.[63]
  • December 9: He was re-elected in December 2013 to be chair of the Democratic Governors Association for the year, 2014.[64]

2014 eventsEdit

  • January 8: Shumlin gave a State of the State Address with a single theme—the rising rate of opiate abuse in Vermont.[59][60]
  • 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.[65]

Third termEdit

2014 electionEdit

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.[66][67]

A major campaign promise of Shumlin was to establish a single-payer healthcare system for Vermont.[68][69]

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.[70] 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.[71] On January 8, 2015,[72] the Assembly chose Shumlin over Milne by 110 votes to 69.[73]

2015 eventsEdit

On June 8, 2015, Shumlin announced he would not seek a fourth term in 2016.[74]

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.[75] 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."[75]

2016 eventsEdit

In his final State of the State Address on January 7, 2016, Shumlin announced his support for the legalization of the consumption and sale of cannabis in the state of Vermont.[76]


During his term in office, Shumlin issued a total of 208 pardons, the most of any Vermont governor.[77] 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.[77][78] 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."[77]

Political positionsEdit

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.[79] 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.[80]

In 2011, Shumlin expressed his support for "Team Kale" in its trademark dispute with fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A and said it sends the message "Don't mess with Vermont."[81]

Shumlin supports same-sex marriage and presided over its legalization in the state of Vermont during his tenure as President Pro Tempore of the Vermont Senate.[82]

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."[83][84]

Personal lifeEdit


Shumlin was married to Deborah Holway from 1989 to 2013; they have two daughters together.[7][85][86]

In September 2015, Shumlin announced his engagement to girlfriend Kate Hunt.[87] They married in December 2015 in a ceremony at their East Montpelier home.[88][89]

Real estate controversyEdit

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.[90][91][92] The neighbor then had second thoughts about the transaction.[93] After some criticism in the press,[94][95][96] Shumlin agreed to let the neighbor repurchase the property.[97][98][99]

Electoral historyEdit

Vermont House of Representatives Windham 1 District election, 1990
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Peter Shumlin 1,749 33.7
Democratic David Deen 1,507 29.0
Republican David Hannum, Jr. 655 12.6
Independent Lettieri 582 11.2
Republican Stephen Angers 559 10.8
Liberty Union Nancy Egan Sternbach 133 2.6
Write-ins Write-ins 5 0.1
Vermont State Senate Windham District election, 1992
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Peter Shumlin 10,784 31.5
Democratic Jan Backus 9,023 26.3
Republican Nathan Lynch 5,509 16.1
Independent Michael Veitch 4,554 13.3
Independent Arthur Lettieri 3,724 10.9
Liberty Union Guido Condosta 357 1.0
Liberty Union Terence Sellaro 315 0.9
Vermont State Senate Windham District election, 1994
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Peter Shumlin (incumbent) 7,469 29.6
Democratic Nancy Chard 6,808 27.1
Republican Anne Bernhardt 5,393 21.5
Republican Art Lettieri 4,114 15.5
Independent Doug Bruce 795 3.2
Liberty Union Fred Herbert 308 1.2
Liberty Union Ki Longfellow 198 0.8
Vermont State Senate Windham District election, 1996
Party Candidate Votes %
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
Write-ins Write-ins 150 0.5
Vermont State Senate Windham District election, 1998
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Nancy Chard (incumbent) 7,976 29.4
Democratic Peter Shumlin (incumbent) 7,580 28.2
Republican Michael Hebert 5,901 23.1
Republican Clint Barnum 4,173 16.6
Liberty Union Steven K-Brooks 567 2.1
Write-ins Write-ins 34 0.1
Vermont State Senate Windham District election, 2000
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Peter Shumlin (incumbent) 9,827 27.0
Democratic Nancy Chard (incumbent) 9,305 25.6
Republican Michael Hebert 7,256 19.9
Republican Sean McKeon 6,500 17.9
Progressive Richard Davis 2,840 7.8
Liberty Union Aaron Diamondstone 624 1.7
Write-ins Write-ins 22 0.1
Vermont Lieutenant Governor election, 2002
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Brian Dubie 94,044 41.2
Democratic Peter Shumlin 73,501 32.2
Progressive Anthony Pollina 56,564 24.8
Vermont Grassroots Sally Ann Jones 4,310 1.9
Write-ins Write-ins 116 0.1
Vermont State Senate Windham District election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Peter Shumlin 12,516 46.1
Democratic Jeanette White 11,406 42.0
Liberty Union Aaron Diamondstone 1,562 5.8
Liberty Union Benjamin Mitchell 1,505 5.5
Write-ins Write-ins 166 0.6
Vermont State Senate Windham District election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Peter Shumlin (incumbent) 14,866 47.8
Democratic Jeanette White (incumbent) 13,531 43.5
Liberty Union Aaron Diamondstone 2,464 7.9
Write-ins Write-ins 219 0.7
Vermont Governor Democratic primary election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Peter Shumlin 18,276 24.8
Democratic Doug Racine 18,079 24.6
Democratic Deb Markowitz 17,579 23.9
Democratic Matt Dunne 15,323 20.8
Democratic Susan Bartlett 3,759 5.1
Democratic Write-ins 560 0.8
Vermont Governor election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Peter Shumlin 119,543 49.5
Republican Brian Dubie 115,212 47.7
Independent Dennis Steele 1,917 0.8
U.S. Marijuana Cris Ericson 1,819 0.8
Independent Dan Feliciano 1,341 0.6
Independent Em Peyton 684 0.3
Write-ins Write-ins 527 0.2
Liberty Union Ben Mitchell 429 0.2
Vermont Governor election, 2012
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Peter Shumlin (incumbent) 170,569 58.0
Republican Randy Brock 110,824 37.7
Independent Emily Peyton 5,862 2.0
U.S. Marijuana Cris Ericson 5,580 1.9
Liberty Union Dave Eagle 1,297 0.4
Write-ins Write-ins 168 0.1
Vermont Governor Democratic primary election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Peter Shumlin (incumbent) 15,260 77.0
Democratic Brooke Paige 3,199 16.1
Democratic Write-ins 1,369 6.9
Vermont Governor election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Peter Shumlin (incumbent) 89,509 46.5
Republican Scott Milne 87,075 45.2
Libertarian Dan Feliciano 8,428 4.4
Independent Emily Peyton 3,157 1.6
Liberty Union Pete Diamondstone 1,673 0.9
Independent Bernard Peters 1,434 0.7
Independent Cris Ericson 1,089 0.6
Write-ins Write-ins 241 0.1


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  76. ^ "In final State of the State, Gov. Shumlin endorses legalized marijuana". WPTZ-TV. January 7, 2016. Retrieved February 16, 2016.
  77. ^ a b c Niraj Chokshijan, Vermont Governor Pardons 192 for Marijuana Convictions, New York Times (January 4, 2017).
  78. ^ Wilson Ring, Shumlin issues 192 pardons for minor pot crimes, Associated Press (January 3, 2017).
  79. ^ Vermont Digger, Shumlin Campaign: Dubie Can't Give a Straight Answer, October 25, 2010
  80. ^ Burlington Free Press, Rallies Coincide in Burlington for Peter Shumlin, Brian Dubie Archived 2012-07-10 at, October 24, 2010
  81. ^ "Shumlin applauds "Team Kale"". December 5, 2011.
  82. ^ Shumlin, Peter (April 15, 2009). "Vermont's brave stand for gay marriage". Guardian. London. Retrieved December 21, 2010.
  83. ^ He vowed to sign a GMO labeling bill on May 8, saying on Twitter that residents deserve to know what's in their food. The legislation will require certain products sold in the state to note that they "may be partially produced with genetic engineering."
  84. ^ Hallenbeck, Terri (May 8, 2014). "Vermont Gov Signs Law to Require Labels on GMO Foods". Burlington Free Press. Burlington, VT.
  85. ^ Burlington Free Press, Shumlin Divorce Finalized, April 3, 2013
  86. ^ Freese, Alicia (April 3, 2013). "Buzzfeed: Shumlin Finalizes Divorce". Vermont Journalism Trust. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  87. ^ Evans, Brad (September 17, 2015). "Gov. Peter Shumlin Announces Engagement to Longtime Girlfriend". Plattsburgh, NY: WPTZ-TV.
  88. ^ "Gov. Shumlin marries partner Katie Hunt". Burlington, VT: Burlington Free Press. December 16, 2015.
  89. ^ "Shumlin weds in small private ceremony". Times Argus. Barre, VT. December 16, 2015. Archived from the original on December 19, 2015. Retrieved December 16, 2015.
  90. ^ Jennifer Reading, WCAX-TV, Vt. Man Claims Governor Took Advantage of Him in Land Deal, May 22, 2013
  91. ^ Peter Hirschfeld, Rutland Herald, Shumlin Land Buy Questioned, May 24, 2013
  92. ^ Paul Heniotz, Seven Days, A Neighbor in Need: Jeremy Dodge Hopes to Stay Put on Shumlin's Land, May 24, 2013
  93. ^ Peter Hirschfeld, Rutland Herald, After Sale to Governor, Regrets for Dodge Archived 2013-08-21 at the Wayback Machine, May 22, 2013
  94. ^ Terri Hallenbeck, Burlington Free Press, Lawyer: Shumlin Willing to Sell Land Back to Neighbor, June 5, 2013
  95. ^ Associated Press, Boston Globe, Neighbor in dispute with Vt. Governor Hires Lawyer, June 11, 2013
  96. ^ Dave Gram, Associated Press, Valley News, Shumlin Willing To Void Sale, June 6, 2013
  97. ^ Andrew Stein, Vermont Digger, Dodge Can Buy Back Property From Shumlin For About $30,000, Lawyers Say, July 18, 2013
  98. ^ Kristin Carlson, WCAX-TV, East Montpelier Man Gets Property Back From Governor, August 13, 2013
  99. ^ Associated Press, Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus, Dodge Gets Land Back From Gov. Archived 2014-01-16 at the Wayback Machine, August 14, 2014

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Stephen Webster
President pro tempore of the Vermont Senate
Succeeded by
Peter Welch
Preceded by
Peter Welch
President pro tempore of the Vermont Senate
Succeeded by
John Campbell
Preceded by
Jim Douglas
Governor of Vermont
Succeeded by
Phil Scott
Party political offices
Preceded by
Gaye Symington
Democratic nominee for Governor of Vermont
2010, 2012, 2014
Succeeded by
Sue Minter
Preceded by
Martin O'Malley
Chair of the Democratic Governors Association
Succeeded by
Steve Bullock