MONTPELIER — Republican Deborah Bucknam has entered the race for attorney general and will challenge T.J. Donovan, the Democratic state’s attorney for Chittenden County, for the office.
Bucknam, 69, from Walden, officially announced her candidacy Monday and plans to hold a formal kick-off in the near future where she will outline the themes of her campaign. On Monday, Bucknam said her experience as an attorney in Vermont spurred her desire to run.
“I’ve been practicing law for 37 years and representing mostly individuals and some small businesses, and I just see the effect of the justice system and Vermont state government on individuals. In recent years I haven’t really liked what I’ve seen,” she said.
As an attorney, Bucknam said she has represented parents in custody cases involving the Department for Children and Families. Many outcomes have not been ideal, she said.
“I just see people making decisions that aren’t really helpful to the client. They’re at times pretty arrogant and there’s not a lot of accountability,” Bucknam said. “The court really has not a lot of supervisory authority over those cases. The court’s role is, in my opinion, too limited. The result is that DCF really has most of the authority once they take a child into custody. The result is, in my opinion, that many of their decision are flawed.”
She said the court system in Vermont is also “overwhelmed,” causing significant delays.
“Justice delayed is justice denied and people are really frustrated,” she said.
If elected, Bucknam said she would act as the attorney for the state as well as its residents.
She graduated cum laude from Vermont Law School in 1979 and has been practicing in Vermont since then. She became licensed to practice in New Hampshire in 2005. During her legal career, Bucknam has represented clients in federal court as well as all divisions of Vermont Superior Court and the Vermont Supreme Court.
Democratic Attorney General William Sorrell, the longest-serving attorney general in state history, is not seeking re-election. Donovan, who nearly defeated Sorrell in a 2012 primary, launched his campaign for the office last June, before Sorrell announced he would not be running.
Donovan, on top of his advantage with name recognition, reported raising nearly $222,000 for his bid in a March report filed with the Secretary of State’s Office. Bucknam said Monday she believes she has a “100 percent” chance of winning, despite Donovan’s cash advantage.
“It’s going to be an uphill battle but I’ve done many, many battles before. I’m not intimidated by that. I’m a trial lawyer,” she said.
Bucknam, who has served as town moderator in Walden but has not held any other elected office, declined to say how much she hopes to raise to compete effectively.
“To be frank with you, we’ve had a lot of discussion about that, but it’s the beginning of the campaign and I think that number will probably change,” she said.
“My strategy is going to be to get out and talk to as many people as possible,” Bucknam added. “I think the fun part of campaigning is talking to people and hearing what their issues are and what their problems are. I want to get out as much as possible and talk to people about their concerns about the office,” she said.
Vermont Republican Party Executive Director Jeff Bartley praised Bucknam’s legal experience, saying she will bring new perspective to the office.
“For too long, the Attorney General’s office has lacked coherent leadership. This office should not be a political office, but rather a resource for Vermonters, businesses and those who practice law. Deb Bucknam is bringing new ideas and has the experience working with Vermonters from all walks of life for decades.” Bartley said in a statement. “She’s energetic, fiercely independently minded, and certainly not a political insider.”
Candidates for the Legislature and statewide offices must file to run by May 26. So far, the Vermont GOP has yet to field candidates for treasurer, secretary of state and auditor.