SWANTON — Democratic Franklin County State Senator Don Collins confirmed this morning that he will not seek re-election.
Messenger columnist Richard Cowperthwait first reported Collins’s decision. His column appears in today’s edition.
Collins, 71, of Swanton, said he decided not to run in order to have more time for business and family pursuits, specifically mentioning his elderly mother and his grandchildren in Virginia. “We had multiple family conversations,” said Collins.
When he looked at his priorities “being the Legislature didn’t really rise to the top two or three,” said Collins.
Collins serves the county in the senate along with Republican senator Norm McAllister, of Highgate. The Republican Party last week indicated that Collins was among Democratic lawmakers it would target for ouster in this election cycle.
Collins has served in the Senate twice. He was first elected to the Senate in 2002. He served until 2008, when he came in third in the two-seat senate race behind Republican Randy Brock and fellow Democrat Sara Branon Kittell. When Brock chose to run for governor in 2012, Collins ran again and was returned to the Senate.
Collins, a former school superintendent, has always been primarily focused on education. Many of his goals when he entered the Legislature such as expanding pre-kindergarten and dual enrollment opportunities for high school students have been achieved he said.
After leaving the Senate, Collins was appointed to the State Board of Education, but resigned that post after he was re-elected to the Legislature. His Senate duties conflicted with the board’s meeting times.
Before deciding not to seek re-election, Collins said he spoke with fellow senators, members of the state board of education, and the Agency of Education about continuing to be involved in education issues, if only informally.
Collins’s departure creates an opening for former St. Albans City representative Dustin Degree. Degree, a Republican, came in third behind Collins by just 35 votes in 2012. Degree served in the House from 2010 to 2012, before deciding to run for the Senate.
Collins today endorsed the candidacy of fellow Democrat Dr. Bill Roberts, of St. Albans.
The next session will be dominated by discussions of health care and addiction, in Collins’s view. “I think the issues are going to play to his strengths,” he said. Roberts is an anesthesiologist with extensive experience treating people with drug addiction and chronic pain.
The deadline for filing petitions for legislative races is June 12.