Cows outnumbered people in Vermont as recently as 1963. But Google's Matt Dunne, a Democratic candidate for governor, thinks the still bucolic state has the potential to attract a new generation and lead the nation.
"When I think of 'the Google governor,' what I think of is being a part of bringing Vermont into a new era of innovation and democracy," said Dunne in an interview with ABC News when asked to explain how his experience at the Internet search giant would shape him as governor.
Dunne, Google's manager of community affairs, was in Washington, D.C., last week to raise money for his campaign and to meet with officials at the Democratic Governors Association.
Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, announced earlier this year that he will not seek re-election after completing eight years in the state's top job.
Dunne now finds himself in a crowded field of five Democrats vying for the chance to take on Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, the likely Republican candidate for governor in 2010.
Winning the Democratic nomination for governor will not be easy because the field features several potentially strong contenders: Secretary of State Deb Markowitz currently occupies statewide office. She is tapping into the Emily's List national network of donors who support female candidates who support abortion rights and she was recently introduced to the DGA's national donors during a conference in Washington, D.C.
State Sen. Doug Racine, a former lieutenant governor, has strong ties to organized labor and is well-known statewide after having lost a three-way 2002 run for governor by two points.
State Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin is regarded even by his rivals as the strongest public speaker in the race. Shumlin, whose family started Putney Student Travel, has hired Kate O'Connor, the longtime aide to former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.
The fourth Democrat competing with Dunne for the nomination is state Sen. Susan Bartlett.
The rap on Dunne, voiced in private by his opponents, is that he is "a young man in a hurry."
Having unsuccessfully challenged Dubie for lieutenant governor in 2006, Dunne's detractors say that he should run again for lieutenant governor in 2010 now that Dubie is trying to move up to governor.
Dunne, who is 40 years old, responds to the criticism by noting that Dean, who ran for president in 2004, was 42 when he first took office. He also points to two other former Democratic governors -- Phil Hoff and Thomas Salmon -- who were 38 and 40, respectively.
Dunne, a married father of two, also notes that his youthfulness does not equal inexperience: Beyond his current job at Google, he has 11 years under his belt in the state legislature and two and a half years of experience running AmeriCorps VISTA under Presidents Clinton and Bush.
"My father passed away when I was young," he said. "The community I grew up in, in many ways, raised me during that period of time and helped out in the way that Vermont communities do. And then when I graduated from college, they turned around and asked me to represent them at 22 in the Legislature.
"I've had those opportunities earlier than a lot of people," he added. "It's an incredible gift and sense of responsibility."
In his policy positions, Dunne sees some high-tech paths to prosperity.