Nov 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Welch preparing to run for Senate

Sen. Peter Welch is seen standing, with his arms crossed.

Rep. Peter Welch. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) is indicating to colleagues he's preparing to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Vermont has never sent a woman to serve in either the House or Senate. Welch would likely clear the Democratic primary field but also would face the prospect of a challenge from the left, according to the Intercept.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has the potential to play kingmaker, foreclosing a primary if the progressive endorsed Welch.
  • The 74-year-old, eight-term congressman already is in a strong position to win the nomination and retain the seat for this party.
  • His odds are strong, locals say, even if Gov. Phil Scott — a rare successful Vermont Republican — decides to jump into the race.
  • Scott, who won re-election by 41 points, has insisted he isn't interested in running — a sentiment his spokesperson repeated Monday.

Go deeper: Molly Gray, a Democrat and the current lieutenant governor, is poised to run for Welch’s House seat, which he’s held for 13 years.

  • State Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, another Democrat and the first woman of color in the state Senate, also is mulling a run for the House seat.

The big picture: Leahy’s announcement is setting off a scramble across a state with remarkably little political turnover and even less female representation.

  • While Vermont celebrates its left-of-center politics, and is the proud progressive home of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, it's the only state never to send a woman to Congress.

The big picture: Open seats in Vermont, one of seven states with a single House representative, are a rarity.

  • Leahy, 81, has logged 47 years in the Senate.
  • Sanders, 80, has served in Congress for 31 years.
  • Welch moved into the U.S. House of Representatives after a career in the state legislature.

Between the lines: There’s no age limit for senators, but given the current age of the delegation, it’s likely Vermont will be sending more than one woman to Congress this decade.

  • Becca Balint, the state Senate pro tempore, also is well-positioned to run for either governor or lieutenant governor.
  • "Let's give the senator the respect he deserves and not immediately jump into speculation," Balint said in a statement. "I've been clear about my intentions and interest in deepening my work for Vermont, but today I am focused on honoring Sen. Leahy."
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