Judy Dean remains firmly out of campaign spotlight

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(Host) Despite Howard Dean’s surging popularity as a presidential candidate, his wife Judy Dean, is sticking by her plan to stay far from the campaign trail. She wants to maintain her medical practice in Vermont.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Throughout Howard Dean’s political career, his wife Judy has led a very private life. She’s a physician who professionally goes by the last name of Steinberg, but she’s known as Judy Dean to her friends.

During Howard Dean’s 11 and a half years as governor, Judy Dean would only make public appearances on election night and at the governor’s inauguration. When the presidential campaign was launched last winter, Judy Dean made it very clear that she planned to remain out of the public view.

She says she plans on sticking to this plan even though her husband has become a leading candidate in the Democratic race:

(Judy Dean) “If he asks me to go someplace that’s very, very important to him, I will go. But I think that will be rare.”

(Kinzel) Judy Dean says she wants to maintain her private life because she’s committed to her medical practice:

(Dean) “I love my practice. I love what I do day to day. I think I have a responsibility to my patients, to my staff, to my partner. It’s not something that you can up and leave, and it’s not something that I really want to up and leave. And I think Howard understands that clearly and he’s very supportive of that.”

(Kinzel) Although the spouses of many other presidential candidates are actively on the campaign trail, Judy Dean doesn’t think her absence will be a liability to the Dean campaign:

(Judy Dean) “I think some people will think this is a great thing and some people will it’s a bad thing, and some people probably won’t care and they’re voting for Howard. And I think it’s pretty impressive that Howard supports me so much and respects me so much that he allows me to do what I love to do. And I think that could be a plus. I’m sure for some people it won’t be, but it works for us.”

(Kinzel) Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis doesn’t think Judy Dean’s decision will be a negative for her husband’s campaign. Davis says she’s charting new ground for candidate spouses:

(Davis) “Judy Dean is establishing a very different approach to the role of candidate spouse, and frankly I hope that American politics has progressed to the point where voters will recognize that a spouse of a candidate who has his or her professional career can continue to pursue that career independent of the spouse seeking political office.”

(Kinzel) Davis says he believes most voters pay much more attention to the views and positions of the individual candidates than to the activities and campaign styles of the candidates’ spouse.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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