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SAGE Publications

Cover Image: Inside the Statehouse: Lessons from the Speaker
  • Date: 05/20/2005
  • Format: Print Paperback
  • Price: $55.00
  • ISBN: 978-1-56802-949-8
  • Pages: 236
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Inside the Statehouse: Lessons from the Speaker
Ralph G. Wright

"Don't believe any of these guys that try to tell you that they ran for office because a lot of folks begged them. I ran nine times, and though I was aware of lots of people who wished I hadn't, I never recall being begged . . ."

And so begins Inside the Statehouse, Ralph G. Wright's first-hand account of what life in state legislatures is really like. Wright takes us behind the scenes through the processes and after-hours exploits of the Vermont State House. Serving as Speaker for a decade, Wright chronicles the ups and downs of his career with insight, humor, and a bluntness that will leave students both enlightened and entertained. He offers a range of provocative lessons from sixteen years in the legislature—from how to lead your party to victory to why your best friend might vote against you.

An introduction by Alan Rosenthal sets the stage, giving students important context for how to place and process Wright’s experiences within the larger study of state politics. From there on out, Inside the Statehouse illuminates the edicts and anomalies of representation, lawmaking, and balancing the executive branch in a personal and humanizing way. Wright details his experiences working with three governors: Madeleine Kunin (Dem.), the first woman governor in Vermont; Richard Snelling (Rep.), who became Wright's close friend and ally; and Howard Dean (Dem.), the prominent 2004 presidential candidate. Through the successes, pratfalls, and pathos of a remarkable legislative career, students discover what it means and what it takes to succeed in the statehouse.

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Table of Contents


Introduction, Alan Rosenthal

1. My First Campaign

2. Life in the Legislature

3. The Committee Process

4. Gaining Leadership

5. The View from the Podium

6. The Press

7. Lobbyists

8. The Gay Rights Issue

9. Working with the Executive Branch, Part 1: Madeleine Kunin, Democrat, 1985-1991

10. Working with the Executive Branch, Part 2: Richard Snelling, Republican, 1991

11. Working with the Executive Branch, Part 3: Howard Dean, Democrat, 1991-1995

12. The Health Care Issue

Epilogue: Saying Good-bye


"One of the greatest gaps in American political literature is first-person accounts from the men and women who lead our state legislatures. In this age of renewed federalism, the states matter more than at any time in modern history. Now comes former Vermont Speaker Ralph Wright with an enlightening memoir of his time at the peak of the Green Mountain State. What is it like, herding the legislative cats of one of our most independent-minded states? What is it like, dealing with a series of strong personalities occupying the Governor's chair---not least of all Howard Dean, the presidential wunderkind of 2004 and current Democratic National Committee chairman? What is it like, at the forefront of two of the most controversial issues in American politics, gay rights, and health care? All these questions, and many more, are answered in this insightful first-hand account of political leadership."

- Larry J. Sabato, University of Virginia

"Inside the Statehouse is an honest, sometimes painfully so, and genuinely gripping insider's look at what it's like to run for elected office and the joys and hassles of governing once the campaign is over. Rarely do we hear this direct a perspective from a backbench legislator; from a statehouse Speaker, it's downright revolutionary. Wright's book will work wonderfully with undergraduate courses on American politics at all levels."

- Rogan Kersh, Syracuse University

"Former Speaker Ralph Wright has produced an insightful and very well-written account of political life in the state legislature. This book is precisely the type of enjoyable read that students need to complement standard textual treatments of American institutions."

- John A. Straayer, Colorado State University
Ralph G. Wright

Ralph Wright was the longest serving Speaker in the history of the Vermont legislature. He represented district 2-1, Bennington, Vermont for 16 years, spending 10 of those years as Speaker. Wright has spent 32 years as an educator in the public school system. He is now retired in Florida where he teaches American history classes as an adjunct professor at Lake Sumter Community College.

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