Jeffords not making endorsement in Senate race

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(Host) Senator James Jeffords says he won’t be making an endorsement in this year’s U.S. Senate race.

Jeffords says the voters of Vermont are perfectly capable of making their own decision about who should replace him without his direct involvement.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Jeffords is retiring from the Senate after serving 3 terms in the chamber. Independent candidate Bernie Sanders and several Republicans are hoping to replace Jeffords in Washington.

Jeffords says he’s following the race with interest but he says it’s not appropriate for him to back a candidate.

(Jeffords) “I have no interest really to try and go out right now. I’m letting the process go. I’m down here in Washington. It’s a long ways from Vermont. I’m not going to endorse anybody. I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to do that anymore and so I’m just not going to it.”

(Kinzel) Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis is not surprised by Jeffords’ decision to remain neutral in the Senate race:

(Davis) “He’s coming to the end of his career in Washington. He had been a Republican for many years before switching parties back in 2001 and he still has friends in both political parties, probably friends in both the Sanders camp and the Tarrant camp.”

(Kinzel) Davis says it’s quite possible that Sanders will be disappointed by Jeffords’ announcement.

(Davis) “Sanders might very well have hoped to have a public event with Jeffords closer to Election Day and use an endorsement from Jeffords to bolster his independent appeal.”

(Kinzel) When Jeffords announced his retirement in the spring of 2005, his re-election committee had already raised almost $5 million and had roughly $2 million in the bank.

This week Jeffords decided to donate most of the money to a variety of programs including the education department at the University of Vermont. He’s also created new scholarships through VSAC and the Vermont Law School.

Bill Kurtz is Jeffords’ chief of staff:

(Kurtz) “He wants to bring the money back to Vermont and further the causes that he’s worked so hard for all his career.”

(Kinzel) Kurtz says Jeffords also made a $225,000 dollar contribution to the national Democratic senatorial committee:

(Kurtz) “This money was raised in the campaign for political process and he felt that some of it should go back to the political process. And he wanted to support that effort.”

(Kinzel) Jeffords plans to become an ambassador for UVM when he steps down from the Senate and he’s expected to help expand programs for students with disabilities.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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