Salmon will seek re-election as auditor

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BENNINGTON -- State Auditor Thomas Salmon reversed course Friday and announced he will seek re-election to that post following a flirtation with bids for governor and the U.S. Senate.

Salmon, a Republican, said earlier this year that he would either challenge Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, or get out of politics altogether. On Friday, he wrote in a letter to Vermonters that devastation from Tropical Storm Irene last month caused him to reconsider.

"I was inspired to enter public life after seeing first-hand the effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as a Navy (Seabee) reservist. That experience pointed out to me the importance of an effective government," Salmon wrote. "As state auditor, I know I can play an important role in rebuilding Vermont after the tragedy of Irene and the effects of the long recession."

In a telephone interview Friday, Salmon said state government is "still getting a handle on the magnitude of this problem."

"Even the auditing process for the state have had a major disruption," he said. "I'm in the room, at the ground floor. My people are involved."

The Bellows Falls-native first ran for auditor as a Democrat in 2006. He defeated the GOP incumbent Randy Brock following a recount. Salmon then joined the Republican party in September 2009. Shortly after, Salmon pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol following a traffic stop in November 2009. For more than a year, Salmon had openly discussed the idea of challenging either Sanders or Shumlin. But he said Friday that running for re-election to the auditor position will allow him to best serve the state.

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"Running against Bernie Sanders was really like walking away from government," he said. "I want to serve Vermonters and be a part of the process."

Other strong Republican candidates are likely to challenge Shumlin, he said, including former Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, who narrowly lost to Shumlin in 2010, or Brock. Salmon said he has recently spoken with both about his decision.

"I have a very strong feeling that either Brian Dubie or Randy Brock will run. That's another factor, but I still think, all things considered, that stability at the auditor's office over the next few years is really critical," Salmon said.

He said Vermonters will understand his decision. "I think Vermonters know that new information makes honest people change their mind and not be afraid to do that," Salmon said. "Politics is not a game for sissies, and if you're afraid to change your mind based on new information then you should get out."

A formal announcement will not be made until next spring, at the earliest, according to Salmon. "This is going to be a very important legislative session and I don't want to get my political race tangled up," he said.

Contact Neal P. Goswami at ngoswami@benningtonbanner.com


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