Howard Brush Dean III (born November 17, 1948) is an American physician, author, and retired politician who served as Governor of Vermont from 1991 to 2003 and Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) from 2005 to 2009 and works as a political consultant and commentator. Dean was a candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2004 presidential election. His implementation of the fifty-state strategy as head of the DNC is credited with the Democratic victories in the 2006 and 2008 elections. Afterward, he became a political commentator and consultant to McKenna Long & Aldridge, a law and lobbying firm.
He was the Lieutenant Governor of Vermont from 1987 to 1991, and a member of the Vermont House of Representatives from 1983 to 1986. In the 2004 election, Dean was the top fundraiser and front runner, prior to the Iowa caucus, for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. Although his presidential campaign was unsuccessful, Dean pioneered Internet-based fundraising and grassroots organizing, which is centered on mass appeal to small donors which is more cost efficient than the more expensive contacting of fewer potential larger donors, and promotes active participatory democracy among the general public. He used these methods when founding Democracy for America, a progressive political action committee, in 2004.
Before entering politics, Dean earned his medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1978. Dean was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1982 and was elected lieutenant governor in 1986. Both were part-time positions that enabled him to continue practicing medicine. In 1991, Dean became governor of Vermont when Richard A. Snelling died in office. Dean was subsequently elected to five two-year terms, serving from 1991 to 2003, making him the second longest-serving governor in Vermont history, after Thomas Chittenden (1778–1789 and 1790–1797). Dean served as chairman of the National Governors Association from 1994 to 1995; during his term, Vermont paid off much of its public debt and had a balanced budget 11 times, lowering income taxes twice. Dean also oversaw the expansion of the “Dr. Dynasaur” program, which ensures universal health care for children and pregnant women in the state. He is a noted staunch supporter of universal health care.Dean denounced the 2003 invasion of Iraq and called on Democrats to oppose the Bush administration. Dean showed fundraising ability, and was a pioneer of political fundraising via the Internet; however, he lost the nomination to Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. Dean formed the organization Democracy for America and later was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee in February 2005. As chairman of the party, Dean created and employed the 50 State Strategy that attempted to make Democrats competitive in normally conservative states often dismissed in the past as “solid red”. The success of the strategy became apparent after the 2006 midterm elections, where Democrats took back the House and picked up seats in the Senate from normally Republican states such as Missouri and Montana. In the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama used the 50 state strategy as the backbone of his candidacy.
Dean was named chairman emeritus of the DNC upon his retirement. He was mentioned as a possible candidate for Secretary of Health and Human Services and Surgeon General under the Obama administration. Since retiring from the DNC chairman position, Dean has held neither elected office nor an official position in the Democratic Party and, as of 2015, was working for global law firm Dentons as part of the firm’s public policy and regulation practice. In 2013, Dean expressed interest in running for the presidency in 2016, but published an op-ed in December 2014 in which he outlined why he would support former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should she decide to run for president, which she eventually did in April 2015. Dean endorsed Clinton over her competitor Senator Bernie Sanders in spite of the fact that Sanders represented the state of Vermont, where Dean had been governor.