T.J. Donovan

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T.J. Donovan
T.J. Donovan.jpg
Attorney General of Vermont
Former Candidate
Prior offices
Chittenden County State's Attorney
Bachelor'sMerrimack College
J.D.Suffolk University
Date of birthJanuary 15, 1974
Personal website
Campaign website
Thomas "T.J." Donovan (b. January 15, 1974 in Burlington, VT) is the Chittenden County State's Attorney. He ran for Attorney General of Vermont in the 2012 election, but was defeated in the August 28th Democratic primary election by incumbent Bill Sorrell.[1]


Donovan was one of six children born in Burlington, Vermont to parents Thomas and Johannah Leddy. A product of the Burlington public school system, Donovan went on to earn his bachelor's degree from Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts. He remained in Massachusetts after graduation to attend law school at Suffolk University in Boston.[2]

He launched his legal career as an Assistant District Attorney in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ultimately, Donovan settled back in his hometown of Burlington and took a job as Deputy State’s Attorney for Chittenden County. He served in that position until 2006, when he was first elected to the office's top position of Chittenden County State's Attorney.[2]


  • B.A. from Merrimack College
  • J.D. from Suffolk University

Political Career

Chittenden County State's Attorney 2006-present

Donovan was first elected Chittenden County state’s attorney in 2006. He won his re-election bid in 2010.

Attorney General Candidacy

He officially launched his campaign for attorney general on May 10, 2012 at the St. John’s Club in Burlington. He kicked-off the event with a declaration of his intent to be an "Attorney General who creates partnerships that’s not only tough on crime, but smart on crime.”[3]


Prior arrest

On June 13, 2012, one day before Vermont's 2012 primary candidate filing deadline, The Seven Days weekly newspaper published a story revealing that at age 18 - over 20 years ago - Donovan was arrested and charged with aggravated assault after a drunken bar brawl. The story stemmed from a letter the newspaper received from an anonymous informant early in the week, the contents of which were verified by the current Chittenden County Attorney and 2012 attorney general challenger. Donovan followed the story's release with a statement of admission about his previously unknown criminal history. He elaborated on why that charge, which was reduced to a misdemeanor and ultimately expunged from his record, should not undermine his suitability to serve as the state's top law enforcement officer.[4] Donovan told the paper that while he was "ashamed" of this run in with the law, along with other youthful indiscretions, the experiences provided him with an understanding about the legal and personal struggles substance abusers face which has benefited him as a prosecutor- in particular, the value of giving first time offenders a second chance. "I would say this gives me great insight into what we can do differently in the criminal justice system. I’ve lived it and I’ve tried to give back through the work I’ve done as a prosecutor," he said, citing examples of when he has used his personal history as a teachable moment for teens he has dealt with in court.[5] When probed for comment on the revelation that his primary challenger has a criminal record, Incumbent attorney general Bill Sorrell said “I’m sure that whatever happened, he regrets, and it’s in the past and that’s where I’m going to leave it.”[5] Donovan, who refers to himself as a "social drinker" said he was not surprised to encounter a report of this nature surfacing only months before an election.

Addiction statistic gaff

Donovan's 2012 attorney general campaign centers on a pledge to tackle Vermont's rising prescription drug abuse problem. In late June, he participated in an interview on Vermont Public Radio, in which he addressed the state's drug crisis by citing, among other items to support his message, a false statistic that 1 in 7 babies in Vermont are born addicted to opiates. Almost immediately after the interview, he was pounced on by Health Department authorities for the mistake. In fact, the figure spoke to the number of pregnant women suffering from addiction. “About 1 in 7 obstetric patients in the Rutland Community has an addiction issue,” was the original statistic. Donovan released a statement of retraction days later, on June 29, admitting that he incorrectly relied on, and then relayed, the statistic, which he got from a WCAX report. Donovan hoped, however, that the blunder would not distract from the overarching issue of pregnant woman suffering from addiction. “I thought we did our due diligence,” Donovan said. “It’s since been corrected. We’re moving on.”[6]



See also: Vermont attorney general election, 2012

Donovan was narrowly defeated by seven-term incumbent Bill Sorrell in the Democratic party primary contest on August 28, 2012.[7] Sorrell will face Republican Jack McMullen in the general election on November 6, 2012.

  • Primary
Vermont Attorney General Democratic Primary, 2012
Candidate Vote % Votes
Green check mark transparent.pngBill Sorrell Incumbent 50.8% 21,124
T.J. Donovan 49.1% 20,410
Write-in 0.2% 66
Total Votes 41,600
Election Results via Vermont Secretary of State.


  • Prescription Drug Abuse

Donovan's headline campaign platform is tackling the state's opiate-addiction epidemic. He cites the number of deaths due to overdose in Vermont as having outstripped traffic-accident fatalities. He plans to "support a 'Good Samaritan' law that would permit friends and relatives of prescription drug addicts to get them into treatment, without fear of prosecution."[8] He also said he would partner with the Governor on his “War on Recidivism.”[9]

  • Marijuana

Donovan wants to soften the state's marijuana enforcement laws. He supports a three-strike possession policy wherein a person cannot be charged with a crime until the third bust. Donovan differs from Sorrell on this issue insofar as Sorrell - who is personally in favor of outright decriminalization - claims that it is not the capacity of the state's chief law enforcement officer to pass a statute violating federal law.[10]

  • Public engagement

On his campaign website, Donovan said he wants to exploit newly available technologies to help Vermonters access legal information such as pending suits which may impact their rights and daily lives. Donovan pledged to "join the ranks of Attorneys General across the country who are effectively utilizing the web, social media and other communication tools to aid in preventing crime, protecting consumers and safeguarding our communities."[9]

  • Healthcare

Donovan said that as attorney general he would work with the state legislature on solid laws underlining his philosophy that every Vermonter has a fundamental right to affordable healthcare.[9]

  • Elder abuse

In a July campaign speech, Donovan proposed how he would use the office to address the growing issue of physical and financial exploitation of the elderly: ”As attorney general, I will prioritize the creation of a new unit that will focus on investigating and prosecuting abuse suffered by seniors and vulnerable Vermonters and work to prevent such activities by aggressively increasing public awareness of theses (sic) issues.”[11]


Before officially launching his campaign, Donovan had already received endorsements from more than 100 Vermont lawyers and several endorsements from the right, including a prominent boost from Republican Mayor of Rutland, Chris Louras, who issued his statement of "wholehearted" support on May 9.[12] In the statement, Mayor Louras said, "To me, T.J. represents an opportunity for new energy, new ideas, and greater engagement on the issues Rutland’s citizens care about most," citing his trust in his capability to reform the state's criminal justice system to focus more on prevention than arrests.[12] He received another key endorsement on June 28 from The Vermont State Employees Association, an influential union comprised of about 6,400 state workers. Donovan credits his status as a “middle class guy” for gaining the VSEA's and other major unions' support.[13][14]


Donovan currently resides in Burlington, Vermont with his wife, Jessica McCloud, a mental health counselor. The couple has one son, named Jack.[2]

Contact information


Tel: (802) 488-4800

Campaign E-mail: tjforag@gmail.com

Personal E-mail: donovantj@gmail.com

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See also

External links