Former Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe is giving “serious consideration” to running for governor and expects to make an announcement in the coming weeks.
Holcombe, 52, was one of the few holdovers from former Gov. Peter Shumlin’s cabinet who continued to serve in Gov. Phil Scott’s administration, but she resigned last year due in part to major policy differences with the Republican governor.
“I’ve had conversations with a number of people and have found them very encouraging,” Holcombe said Friday. “My hope is to make a decision in the next couple weeks. I’m in an exploratory phase.”
She declined to say what her policy priorities would be, but said she would discuss them fully once she had decided whether to run. “I do believe the state needs a new direction, so I am giving serious consideration to a run,” she said.
Holcombe, who would be making her first run for elected office, said she has been speaking with Emily’s List, a political action committee that supports pro-choice Democratic women in politics.
“They seem very excited about the prospect of having a woman candidate here in Vermont,” she said.
Attorney General TJ Donovan and Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman are also said to be considering runs to the governor’s office, and have spoken with each other about their 2020 prospects. Both say they remain undecided.
Scott said this week that he doesn’t plan to tip his hand until the summer of 2020, a strong indication that he will be running for a third term. Vermont governors have historically announced plans to step aside early enough to give their party at least a year to prepare a new candidate.
Scott has faced female candidates in both of his campaigns for governor, first Sue Minter in 2016 and then Christine Hallquist in 2018. Neither had ever held statewide office, though Minter had a relatively high profile as a former transportation secretary and state lawmaker.
Holcombe was a crucial figure in the implementation of Act 46, the state’s school district consolidation law. She resigned just as the Agency of Education was finalizing its merger maps, causing some to ask if there should be a pause. About 30 districts are still fighting the mergers in court.
Before taking the education secretary post in 2014, Holcombe was the director of the Teacher Education Program at Dartmouth College. She has also worked as a principal in Fairlee and before that a middle school teacher in Hanover, New Hampshire. She has degrees from Brown and Harvard.
Her fallout with Scott came as he was pushing an overhaul in education funding, and pursuing a short-term effort buy down education property taxes after local school budgets had been approved by voters.
At the time, Scott said Holcombe’s abrupt resignation was for “personal” reasons, an explanation that Holcombe never directly disputed, but that friends and colleagues suggested downplayed serious professional disagreements. Since leaving office, Holcombe has at times weighed in publicly to push back on administration proposals.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly described Gov. Phil Scott’s education spending proposals in 2018.
Originally published June 14, 2019 by VTDigger
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