Thursday July 5, 2012

NEAL P. GOSWAMI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- The two Democrats running for attorney general have consumed much of the early focus for the contest for that office, but the winner of the Democratic primary will face-off against former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jack McMullen.

Democratic incumbent William Sorrell is facing a primary challenge from Chittenden County State’s Attorney TJ Donovan. Donovan has snagged several high-profile endorsements, including the Vermont State Employees Association, the Professional Firefighters of Vermont and Democratic Sen. Dick Sears, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, among others.

Sorrell, meanwhile, a 15-year incumbent, has been backed by a host of public safety officials.

McMullen, a resident of Burlington, said his varied background will serve him well as the state’s attorney general.

"I will bring a different perspective to the duties of attorney general if elected. My background is in both law and business, and I believe the limited resources of the state’s top attorney can be better deployed to get things done for Vermonters by considering both the legal and economic impact of matters taken on by the office," he said.

Like Donovan, McMullen said the office should provide lawmakers with early feedback on pending legislation to avoid costly court challenges to laws.

"Contentious situations might be resolved more readily by early intervention and negotiation rather than litigation after the fact. For instance, the attorney general could have provided an early advisory opinion to Vermont’s legislative leaders before they passed what was widely considered to be an unconstitutional campaign finance law -- even by some members of the Legislature," he said. "This could have saved taxpayers millions of dollars in litigation costs -- money that could have been put to better use for Vermonters in these troubled economic times."

McMullen said he has previously taught business strategy at Harvard Law School. He currently serves as a consultant for new technology companies to help them address legal issues often seen by new businesses.

McMullen said his work has given him experience with federal and state legal systems, having provided analysis and testimony on issues influencing competitive rivalry in large commercial litigation. Additionally, McMullen said he served as an informal advisor to former New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bill Bradley when the Bradley sought Republican input on crime and pension reform issues.

McMullen has picked up a high-profile endorsement of his own. Former Republican Vermont Gov. James Douglas has thrown his support behind McMullen.

"Jack would bring new energy and a fair-minded, non-partisan approach to the office of attorney general," Douglas said. "Vermonters can rest assured that he will look out for their interests and livelihoods."

McMullen is best known for his 1998 candidacy for the U.S. Senate. The late dairy farmer Fred Tuttle, believing McMullen was a "carpetbagger" from Massachusetts, entered the race to challenge McMullen in a GOP primary. During a debate, Tuttle asked McMullen several "local knowledge" questions, including the proper pronunciation of some Vermont towns, and the number of teats on a cow. McMullen was unable to answer.

Tuttle would go on to defeat McMullen in the primary, and promptly endorsed the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Patrick Leahy.

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