Former education secretary Rebecca Holcombe says she is not running for governor of Vermont, putting an end to rumors that have circulated in Montpelier for weeks.
Holcombe resigned suddenly on March 27 after more than four years at the helm of the state Agency of Education. She gave less than a week's notice and has since refused to publicly discuss the reasons for her departure.
Quoting state Board of Education chair Krista Huling and sources close to Holcombe, Seven Daysreported last month that the secretary broke with Gov. Phil Scott over his insistence on further school budget cuts — even after local voters approved modest budget increases on Town Meeting Day.
Scott, a first-term Republican, is still in the process of hiring Holcombe's replacement.
Speculation about a gubernatorial bid grew in Democratic circles after Holcombe began posting thinly veiled criticism of administration policies on social media, and when she spoke at a recent teachers' union rally at the Statehouse.
Also contributing to the Holcombe-mania was dissatisfaction among some Dems over the field of candidates for governor — and the irresistible potential for Holcombe to challenge Scott's education funding policies, which have become a flashpoint between Democratic legislature and Republican executive this spring.
Quoting unnamed Democratic Party sources, VTDigger.org columnist Jon Margolis reported last week that Holcombe's interest in the race was "more than just a rumor."
The former secretary has refused interviews on the candidacy rumors but provided Seven Days a definitive statement via text.
"I am not running for office," she wrote. "I am looking for ways to help clarify the choices the state has before it and to contribute to pragmatic solutions to Vermont's significant policy challenges."
The filing deadline for major-party candidates is on Thursday. Barring a major surprise, it appears that the field for the Democratic nomination is set at four. It includes former utility executive Christine Hallquist, water quality advocate James Ehlers, arts administrator and anti-poverty activist Brenda Siegel and the now 14-year-old Ethan Sonneborn, whose birthday was May 24.