Republican lawmaker defeated at 90 says he's not retiring

AP News
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Posted: Dec 02, 2016 5:11 PM
Republican lawmaker defeated at 90 says he's not retiring

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Outgoing Republican state Sen. William Doyle wants to make one thing clear when he's asked about his decision to stop pursuing a recount in his narrow election loss: Even at age 90, he's not retiring from politics.

Doyle, the longest-serving member of the Vermont Senate, says he's going to stay involved in politics and continue to use the Statehouse as the backdrop for the political science courses he teaches at Johnson State College.

"I haven't retired from anything," Doyle said Friday at his Montpelier home.

Doyle is tied with Texas Rep. Tom Craddick, a Republican, as the second-longest-serving state legislator behind Wisconsin Sen. Fred Risser, a Democrat, the National Conference of State Legislatures said.

Last month, Doyle lost his bid to be elected to the state Senate for the 24th time, finishing fourth in a race for one of Washington County's three seats in the 30-member state Senate. He lost by 189 votes to former state representative and Statehouse Sgt. At Arms Francis Brooks, a Democrat, whom he described as a long-time neighbor and friend.

His decision to quietly end his recount bid comes as the country is watching high-profile recount efforts in the presidential race in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania and in the governor's race in North Carolina.

Even if Doyle is not retiring, his legacy drew immediate praise from people across the state.

Gov.-elect Phil Scott, the Republican lieutenant governor, said he has known Doyle for years, first as one of his constituents, then as a fellow senator and more recently while he oversaw the chamber as lieutenant governor. He called Doyle one of the "'indomitable people' of Vermont, as President Calvin Coolidge said."

Doyle grew up in Sea Girt, New Jersey, the son of a long-time local official. He moved to Vermont in the late 1950s after taking the political science job at Johnson State. Within days of his arrival he and his wife decided Vermont was where they belonged.

He ran for a seat in the state House in 1966 and lost. He was elected to the Senate two years later, the year Richard Nixon was elected president. Since then he's served during the administrations of eight governors.

What struck him is how Vermont lawmakers aren't defined by their party labels.

"The legislature in Vermont has a high degree of respect. It helps define the Legislature," he said. "It's not unusual to cross the aisle. The vote tends to be more on the merits than on the political issue."

During his decades in the Senate, he was perhaps best known for the unscientific Doyle Poll he conducted on Town Meeting Day, when he'd send questionnaires to people across the state on topics as varied as gay marriage and nuclear power.

He said he started sending out the surveys in 1970 because he realized he was being asked to vote on many issues without knowing the sentiments of his constituents and they got a good reception.

"I think just putting the issues out there was important because the newspapers covered the news well, but often on one sheet of paper you don't see 13 issues," said Doyle, who hopes to continue the survey.

Another legacy Doyle is proud of is the number of young people he helped lead to public service. He says more than 50 of his former students have gone on to seek elective office.

And he's not ruling out the possibility he could run for office again in two years.

"I'm strongly considering it," he said.