In 1962, Burlington attorney Philip Hoff, one of the so-called “Young Turks” in the 1960 General Assembly (the bipartisan group also included Republicans Richard Mallary, Sanborn Partridge, Ernest Gibson III and Franklin Billings), ran successfully against incumbent Republican Governor F. Ray Keyser Jr.
Hoff, who also won re-election in 1966 against house member Richard Snelling of Shelburne, brought Vermont into the age of federal largesse. He brought eighty federally funded programs to Vermont, including development, manpower training, education and welfare.
Hoff’s appeal was based on more than his stands on political issues, however. He was an energetic leader who knew how to make people enthusiastic about their state and themselves. Elbert Moulton, a Republican, served under Hoff as his development commissioner, and held him in high regard. Hoff, he explained, fostered “a climate of stimulating courage, enthusiasm and faith, making people more self-confident.”
Hoff also attempted to reduce the number of school districts in Vermont. “With a population of 400,000 persons,” declared Hoff, “Vermont has 800 school directors, 246 road commissioners, and 246 overseers of the poor.” He led Vermont toward a two-party state. “I think we opened up the State of Vermont to new ideas, new ways of doing things, that hadn’t been heard in the state for a long, long time.”
In his third term, Hoff turned to national issues. He came to oppose the Vietnam War and was the first Democratic governor to break with President Lyndon Johnson and support Senator Robert Kennedy for president. After Kennedy’s assassination, he supported Senator Eugene McCarthy. In 1970 Hoff ran for the United States Senate, but it was not for him to break the Republican strangle hold. He lost to Winston Prouty in a hard-fought campaign.
Senator Bill Doyle serves on the Senate Education Committee and Senate Economic Affairs Committee, and is the Senate Assistant Minority Leader. He teaches government history at Johnson State College. He can be reached at 186 Murray Road, Montpelier, VT 05602; e-mail email@example.com; or call 223-2851.