(Reuters) - Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat who narrowly won his latest re-election bid against a Republican challenger, said on Monday he would not seek a fourth term in office in 2016.
Shumlin, a former state senator first elected governor in 2010, said he was announcing his decision now to allow time for potential Democratic successors to plan their campaigns.
"I'm sure that there will be great candidates for governor, there always are in this state," he told reporters at the statehouse in Montpelier. "I hope this will give them the time to decide if they want to do so."
Shumlin captured 46 percent of the vote in the 2014 election, while 45 percent voted for political newcomer and Republican businessman Scott Milne in a multicandidate race. The state's Democratic-controlled legislature in January confirmed him to a third two-year term in office.
Shumlin had a decidedly liberal record as governor, making Vermont the first U.S. state to mandate labeling of foods made with genetically modified organisms, raising the minimum wage to $10.50 and focusing state efforts on tackling a surge in deaths related to heroin overdoses.
He also remained tied to the Democratic Party establishment, endorsing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the 2016 White House race over U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, a fellow Vermonter and left-leaning independent who is challenging Clinton for the Democratic nomination.
Shumlin denied that his performance in the last election prompted his decision not to run again.
"This is not driven by poll numbers, this is not driven by politics," Shumlin said. "I firmly believe that if we had run in a president year we would have won big. But we're not going to find that out."
Reporting by Scott Malone in Boston; Editing by Mohammad Zargham