He was the Lieutenant Governor of Vermont from 1987 to 1991, and a member of the Vermont House of Representatives from 1983 to 1986. In the 2004 election, Dean was the top fundraiser and front runner, prior to the Iowa caucus, for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. Although his presidential campaign was unsuccessful, Dean pioneered Internet-based fundraising and grassroots organizing, which is centered on mass appeal to small donors which is more cost efficient than the more expensive contacting of fewer potential larger donors, and promotes active participatory democracy among the general public. He used these methods when founding Democracy for America, a progressive political action committee, in 2004.
Before entering politics, Dean earned his medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1978. Dean was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1982 and was elected lieutenant governor in 1986. Both were part-time positions that enabled him to continue practicing medicine. In 1991, Dean became governor of Vermont when Richard A. Snelling died in office. Dean was subsequently elected to five two-year terms, serving from 1991 to 2003, making him the second longest-serving governor in Vermont history, after Thomas Chittenden. Dean served as chairman of the National Governors Association from 1994 to 1995; during his term, Vermont paid off much of its public debt and had a balanced budget 11 times, lowering income taxes twice. Dean also oversaw the expansion of the "Dr. Dynasaur" program, which ensures universal health care for children and pregnant women in the state. He is a noted staunch supporter of universal health care.
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