Howard Dean Biography

Chair of the Democratic National Committee

Born Howard Brush Dean III, November 17, 1948, in New York, NY; son of Howard Jr. (a stockbroker) and Andree Dean; married Judith Steinberg (a doctor), 1981; children: Anne, one son. Education: Yale University, B.A., 1971; attended Columbia University; Albert Einstein College of Medicine, M.D., 1978.

Addresses: Office —c/o Democratic National Committee, 430 S. Capitol St. SE, Washington, D.C., 20003.


Started working as an investment banker, Smith Barney, 1972; physician, 1978-91; legislator, Vermont House, 1983-86; elected lieutenant governor of Vermont, 1986, 1988, 1990; assumed governorship, 1991; elected governor of Vermont, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000; head of National Governors Association, 1994-95; ran for Democratic U.S. presidential nomination, 2003-04; elected head of the Democratic National Committee, 2005.


Although he worked as a doctor for many years, Howard Dean was better known for his political activities. After serving in the Vermont legislature and as lieutenant governor, Dean became governor of his adopted home state in 1991. After spending more than a decade in this office, Dean decided to run for the presidential nomination of

Howard Dean
the Democratic party. Although he did not win the nomination, Dean did become the chair of the Democratic National Committee in early 2005.

Dean was born on November 17, 1948, in New York City, the eldest of four sons born to Howard Brush Dean, Jr., and his wife, Andree. Dean was raised in wealth and privilege in East Hampton, New York. His Republican father worked on Wall Street as a stock broker. Dean received his education at a prep school, St. George's School in Newport, Rhode Island. An athlete who played football and participated in wrestling, Dean graduated in 1966.

After high school, Dean entered Yale University where he studied political science. When he graduated from Yale in 1971, Dean was unsure what career path to choose so he took a year off and skied in Aspen, Colorado. Dean did not serve in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War because he had an unfused vertebra which led to a medical deferment.

When his year off was completed, Dean returned to New York City and a job as an investment banker. But he did not enjoy his life or career and was already thinking about a change. He considered both teaching and medicine, though he also wanted to be outdoors. At the age of 25, Dean decided to go to medical school. To meet the med school requirements, Dean took pre-med classes at Columbia, then entered the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. While a student, he met his future wife, Judith Steinberg, whom he married in 1981.

While a med student, a family tragedy deeply affected Dean. His 23-year-old brother Charlie was an idealist who became involved with the anti-war movement. Charlie Dean was traveling in Laos in the mid-1970s when he disappeared and was murdered. He was probably taken hostage by communists in the area, and the family did not recover his remains for many years. Charlie Dean's death made Dean even more sure of his choice to pursue medicine, and also played a part in his decision to enter politics.

After graduating from medical school in 1978, Dean moved to Vermont. He began practicing medicine as an internist in Shelburne, Vermont, and later shared a practice with his wife. As soon as he moved there, Dean became involved in politics. In 1978, he worked to establish a bicycle path around Lake Champlain. Dean later volunteered on President Jimmy Carter's re-election campaign and went to the Democratic National Convention in 1980.

By 1983, politics drew more of Dean's time and attention. Maintaining his medical practice part-time, Dean ran for office and won a seat in the Vermont legislature, which was also only a part-time job. Dean believed his medical background helped him as a politician. Lawrence K. Altman wrote in the New York Times, "Dean said medical training to ask tough questions about the facts and to analyze them rationally before deciding on a course of action had served him well in politics."

Dean served in Vermont's legislature until 1986 when he ran for lieutenant governor of the state. In Vermont, the governor and lieutenant governor run independently. Dean won his office as a Democrat with 53 percent of the vote, to his Republican opponent Susan Auld's 44 percent. Dean was re-elected two times, in 1988 and 1990. While serving as lieutenant governor, Dean continued his medical practice since the government position was part-time in the small state.

When Vermont's Republican Governor Richard Snelling died after a heart attack in August of 1991, Dean became the state's governor and he was forced to leave medicine behind. Though Dean was not well known in the state, he still managed to win election to the office himself in 1992 by easily defeating Republican Senator John McClaughery. As governor, he promised to keep many Snelling's policies in place, despite the difference in party affiliation. This stance drew some criticism from the Democrats, though Dean openly stated he was a fiscal conservative.

Dean's platform did include such Democratic issues as health care reform, something he fought for in subsequent terms. He also used his position to push for such reform on a national level. He served as the head of a governor's task force on the health care reform. When First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton had her own task force on the subject, he worked with that group as well. Dean also served as chair of the National Governor's Association, beginning in 1994.

In 1994, Dean was re-elected Vermont's governor, winning 70 percent of the vote and defeating David Kelley. In his second term, Dean managed to get some health care reform passed in his state in 1995. He did face some tough budget problems, including a budget deficit in 1996. Though some Democrats did not support him, he cut many popular programs that Democrats liked such as property tax relief.

Dean's next election was won as easily as the previous one. In 1996, he defeated Republican John L. Gropper with 71 percent of the vote. However, Dean's popularity took a hit with some of the decisions he made. In 1997, he signed into law Act 60, which created a new property tax to support education. The act also forced richer communities to give funds to poorer communities for education.

Dean's fourth run at office in 1998 was not by as wide of a margin, but still significant. He defeated Republican Ruth Dwyer with 56 percent of the vote. Despite the close vote, Dean's term was relatively successful. Vermont's budget improved and by 1999, it had nearly a $90 million surplus. He signed tax cuts into law that year.

A more controversial issue was civil unions. In 2000, he signed into law the right for two people of the same gender to marry in a civil union. This was not just Dean's idea, but something a decision by Vermont's Supreme Court forced on the legislature and Dean. Despite such unpopular stances, Dean considered running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000, but did not.

Instead, Dean ran for another term as governor, again against Dwyer. Dean's margin of victory was even closer than his last election. He won with 50.4 percent of the vote to Dwyer's 30 percent. Dean continued to successfully pass social programs such as establishing a child abuse prevention program and expanding health care coverage to cover nearly everyone. He also founded a rainy day fund for the state to draw on when economic problems emerged in the future.

Dean did not seek re-election in 2002, and left the governor's office in January of 2003. He already was set for a new challenge: running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004. Dean began his campaign in October of 2002, but was not seen as a serious candidate early on by some observers because he was from such a small state, had no national network, and had little funding. He only raised $85,000 by October of 2002.

Despite the lack of support and visibility, Dean was already polling well in New Hampshire, and already campaigning in New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina. In December of 2002, Todd S. Purdum wrote in the New York Times, "his dark horse status and scrappy personality have combined to let him take stands—like his call to roll back almost all of President Bush's $1.3 billion tax cut—that make him stand out."

Dean continued to build steam in his campaign throughout 2003. He became a media darling, in part because of his accessibility. Dean also relished his role as an underdog, something he tried to maintain throughout his campaign as a useful positive. One relatively unique feature of Dean's campaign was attracting supporters through the Internet. While other candidates used the Internet previously, Dean was extremely successful in getting donations through it. In early summer of 2003, Dean raised $7.5 million over three months, more than any other Democratic candidate. Two-thirds of those funds came online. Dean ended up getting more money online in the entire campaign than any other candidate.

Dean continued to press his campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire, where the first primaries were to be held in 2004. As Dean gained momentum through the summer and fall of 2003, his personality became an issue. He had a temper and sometimes displayed an angry side. He had a propensity to make somewhat outrageous statements without thinking, then apologizing for them later. Dean's personality both attracted and repulsed voters. Though his campaign brought in more and more funds—especially from those who were sick of the current state of politics—and the support of many young voters, many observers believed that if he won the nomination, he could not beat President George W. Bush in the general election.

By early 2004, Dean had the lead among Democrats going into the first primaries and caucuses. However, he did not win the Iowa caucuses in January of 2004, and though he continued to make a push, he never won a primary or caucus. Dean continued his campaign after these defeats for a time, but eventually dropped out of the race. Before he left, however, he founded a grass roots organization that lasted beyond the 2004 election called Democracy for America. This political action group (or PAC) was a progressive Democratic organization that worked to get Democrats elected from the local to the national level.

Though Dean lost, some believed his campaign had not been in vain. His campaign pollster, Paul Maslin, told Mark Z. Barabak of the Los Angeles Times, "Howard Dean galvanized the party, awakened the party, got the party going at the grass roots. He showed how we could raise tens of millions of dollars over the Internet. For all our faults, that was a historic campaign."

After the election, Dean started doing commercials for Yahoo!, an Internet search engine and website. But politics remained his primary interest. In January of 2005, he began running for a new office. He wanted to be the chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which ran the Democratic party. Though he was an unexpected candidate because of his criticisms of the insider politics of Washington and major parties, he really wanted the post.

Dean campaigned hard, believing he could draw on his grassroots support to revitalize the Democratic party. Despite potential issues, including his personality and lack of appeal to certain audiences, Dean was elected unanimously by the 450 members of the DNC. His brother, Jim, took over the running of the PAC that Dean had founded.

Dean promised that if he were elected head of the DNC, he would not run for the Democratic nomination in 2008. Instead, he would work on his vision for getting more Democrats elected and winning the White House and control of Congress in 2008, beginning on the local level. One area that Dean had immediate success in was fund-raising. In the three weeks after he was elected, the DNC raised $3.4 million, and a total of $9.6 million in the first seven weeks of the year. These numbers were comparable to what the Republicans raised.

Of Dean's potential to succeed in his new position, former DNC chair David Wilhelm told John Nichols of the Nation, "Dean understands that the essence of a good political communicator is somebody who can execute strong message contrasts. Maybe what seemed wild in a presidential candidate will seem much more normal in a chair of a national party."



Associated Press, March 7, 2005.

Associated Press Candidate Biographies, 1996, 2000.

Campaigns & Elections, May 2002, p. 18.

Editor & Publisher, April 7, 2003, p. 27.

Los Angeles Times, November 2, 2004, p. E1; January 28, 2005, p. E1; February 13, 2005, p. A19.

Nation, March 7, 2005, p. 13.

Newsweek, July 21, 2003, pp. 36-39; August 11, 2003, pp. 22-30; January 12, 2004, p. 18; January 26, 2004, p. 32.

New York Times, September 3, 1991, p. C3; December 18, 2002, p. A1.

Progressive, June 2004, p. 37.

Time, July 14, 2003, p. 40; August 11, 2003, p. 22.

U.S. News & World Report, December 29, 2003, p. 48.


"Dean named Democratic Party Chief,", (February 14, 2005).

—A. Petruso

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