House Speaker Smith, Rep. Jewett weigh future plans

MONTPELIER — Vermont House of Representatives Speaker Shap Smith might re-enter the race for governor, and one decision he has already made could affect the plans of at least one Addison County lawmaker.
Smith, a Morrisville Democrat, acknowledged in a March 30 phone interview with the Independent that he might re-insert himself into the contest for governor, this after having withdrawn from the race this past November.
The speaker suspended his campaign after his wife, Melissa, was diagnosed with cancer. Her improving health heightened speculation that Smith might rejoin a field of Democratic gubernatorial candidates that includes former Agency of Transportation Secretary Sue Minter and former state Sens. Matt Dunne and Peter Galbraith. Meanwhile, retired Wall Street executive Bruce Lisman and Lt. Gov. Phil Scott are vying for the Republican nomination for governor.
“Melissa is getting close to completing treatment, so we’re still working through that,” Smith said. “I have had a lot of people encourage me to think about running for office, and I haven’t made any decision yet on what I’m going to do. It’s getting late in the game, and that may actually foreclose my options anyway.”
He declined to disclose when he will have to fish or cut bait on a run for governor this year.
“I do, in my own mind, have an idea of when I’d have to make a go or no-go decision,” Smith said.
He was emphatic, however, that he will not be on the November ballot for the Lamoille-Washington-1 House seat he has held since 2002.
“It is true that I will not be a candidate for the House,” he said. “I am pretty focused on trying to get the legislative session done. I am focused on my job.”
Smith’s pass on re-election will open up the speaker’s post, which the Democrats are likely to retain due to their substantial majority in the House. And Rep. Willem Jewett, D-Ripton, has not closed the door on a potential bid to preside over the House. It is perhaps the lone House leadership position that Jewett has not yet held. The Addison-2 representative has previously served stints as his party’s assistant majority leader and majority leader.
Asked recently about his political ambitions for 2017, Jewett was decidedly noncommittal. He hinted that he would have more to say once the final gavel falls on the 2016 session.
“I am considering a number of options,” Jewett wrote in an emailed response. “However, I feel that it is much more important to focus on the work until we have adjourned.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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