by Lisa Rathke and Wilson Ring
Vermont’s lone member of the US House of Representatives, Democratic Rep. Peter Welch, announced on Monday that he would now run for the US Senate seat next to Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy.
The Welsh decision comes a week after 81-year-old Leahy announced that he would not seek re-election for the seat he first won in 1974.
Welch, 74, said the 2022 election will determine control of the Senate and, with it, what he can achieve for Vermont families.
“We are at a critical moment,” Welch said in a statement distributed by his campaign. “Vermont families are grappling with many crises: a global pandemic, the consequences of climate change, and a racially calculated generation.”
He said that if elected, he would be ready to fight for progressive change from day one.
He promised to continue fighting to ensure that working families had access to child care and paid family leave. He said he would also work to pass a Green New Deal to protect the environment, reduce the cost of health care and prescription drugs, ensure that women have control over their health care decisions and the right to vote and Protect American democracy.
Leahy and now Welch’s decision would create the first open seats in Vermont’s three-member congressional delegation since 2006, when independent Bernie Sanders moved into the Senate and Welch took his seat in the House.
Welch, who has consistently been one of Vermont’s top vote-getters during his years in the House, will have an immediate advantage over other potential candidates.
The popular Republican governor of Vermont, Phil Scott, has said he has no interest in running for Senate. It is unclear who the state GOP will get to run for a Senate seat or a House seat.
Vermont has never sent a woman or member of a racial minority community to Washington. Several female politicians have expressed interest in running for a vacant seat, but the only person who has said she will run for the House if Welch runs for Senate is Democratic State Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale.
Welch of Norwich was first elected to the US House in 2006.
During his years in the House, he has worked for energy efficiency, cutting drug prices, investing in infrastructure, and expanding broadband in Vermont and rural areas of the country.
Until this year, Welch served as Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Caucus and a member of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.
In the House, he has served on the Standing Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the Committee on Oversight and Reform.
Linda Fowler, professor emerita of government at Dartmouth College, said Welch has developed a niche for herself in the House and is well-liked there.
Welch was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He moved to Vermont in the early 1970s after graduating from law school. He served as a public defender and founded his own law firm.
He was elected to the Vermont Senate in 1980 and became the first Democrat to be elected as Senate President pro tempore in 1985. He was re-elected to the state Senate in 2002 and served in that role until he was elected to the House four years later.
Welch said that even though the country is facing immense challenges, he is optimistic.
“I’ve seen Vermonters come together to solve problems,” he said. “We focus on the solution, not who gets the credit. That’s the Vermont way. That’s how I served as Congressman from Vermont and how would I act if I get elected to the US Senate. ,