MONTPELIER — Longtime Washington County Sen. Bill Doyle withdrew his request for a recount on Wednesday, effectively ending his 48-year tenure in the Vermont State House.
Doyle, a Republican who sought re-election earlier this month, finished behind Democrat Francis Brooks and the two other incumbent senators from Washington County. Brooks edged him out by just 191 votes. Doyle, 90, initially moved for a recount following the election, but on Wednesday he opted to forego that effort and concede defeat after consulting “advisors” who told him a recount was unlikely to close the gap.
“In order to prevail in a recount, I would need 96 votes to change,” Doyle said in his statement. “On reflection and thinking of how to best continue to serve the people of this county and this State, I have decided to stand aside and let the initial results be certified as the final ones.”
With that decision, Doyle’s storied career in the Legislature will come to an end in early January when lawmakers gather for the new legislative biennium. It will be the first biennium since 1969 without Doyle. He was first elected in 1968 and had been re-elected every two years since then.
“I thought it about it long and hard,” Doyle said in an interview Thursday. “If it had been a smaller margin I may have continued. The people I spoke to … said that it was virtually impossible to overcome a 191 vote difference.”
Born in New York City, Doyle grew up in New Jersey and moved to Vermont in 1958. He has worked as a professor at Johnson State College since then, helping generations of Vermonters learn about government and politics.
Doyle, in the last legislative biennium, served as the vice chairmen of the Senate Education Committee and a member of the Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs.
Doyle, although leaving the chamber that has served as a second home for nearly half a century, said he does not feel sadness. He feels fortunate to have had the chance to serve for so long.
“I’ve had the good fortune to be a senator in, I think, one of the best states in the nation, and I take pride in the people I’ve served with,” he said. “No legislators that I know of are more respectful or as professional as those in Vermont.”
“The camaraderie in the Senate is very remarkable,” Doyle added.
Doyle is known for his annual “Doyle Poll,” an unscientific survey of Vermonters taken every year on and around Town Meeting Day. Doyle, who launched the survey in 1970, has used it as a way to gauge Vermonters’ support for issues over the years. Although it is not a formal, scientific poll, many political observers have used the Doyle Poll as a political barometer.
He will look to continue the survey, he said.
“Absolutely,” Doyle said. “We’ll find out how to make it work.”
Doyle’s announcement Wednesday sparked a number of Vermont politicos to offer statements acknowledging his long career.
Sen. Joe Benning, the current minority leader, credited Doyle’s work ethic in a Facebook post.
“I’d often find Bill in the statehouse after hours and on weekends responding to the needs of his constituents when there was nobody else in the building. The years and work he dedicated to his “Doyle Poll” knows no equal,” Benning wrote. “Countless Vermonters were introduced to government through his efforts as an educator and that, fittingly, will be his legacy. Truly a class act and a classic Vermont Republican!”
Republican Gov.-elect Phil Scott, issued his own lengthy statement offering his “sincere thanks and appreciation for his 48 years of service to the people of the State of Vermont.”
“I’ve had the privilege of knowing Sen. Doyle very well — first as his constituent in Washington County, then as a fellow Senator and as Lt. Governor. He is truly one of the ‘indomitable people’ of Vermont, as President Calvin Coolidge said. The decision Sen. Doyle made today in regards to the recount must not have been easy, especially after serving in the Legislature for 48 years — but it speaks to who he is: A public servant first and a politician second,” Scott said.
The governor-elect said he hopes Doyle will continue to serve Vermonters outside the State House.
“He always looks for ways to lift others up, and to call on Coolidge again, embodies the ‘generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont,’” Scott said.
Doyle had high praise of his own for Brooks.
“We know each other. We’re good friends. We’ve known each other for a long time,” Doyle said, noting they have each taught the other’s children. “He came over to the house a few days after the election and we had a good talk.”