Vermont’s only member of the US House of Representatives, Democratic MP Peter Welch, announced Monday that he will be running for the US Senate seat now held by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy.
Welch’s decision comes a week after Leahys, 81, announced that he would not be re-elected for the seat he won for the first time in 1974.
Welch, 74, said the 2022 election will determine control of the Senate and what it can do for families in Vermont.
“We are at a crucial moment,” Welch said in a statement circulated by his campaign. “Families in Vermont are struggling through multiple crises: a global pandemic, the effects of climate change, and a race payoff that has generations in the making.”
He said that if elected, he would be ready to fight for progressive change from day one of his term in office.
He pledged to continue fighting to ensure that working families have access to childcare and paid family vacations. He also said he would work to pass a Green New Deal to help protect the environment, reduce health care costs and the cost of prescription drugs, ensure women are in control of their own healthcare decisions and protect voting rights and American democracy.
The decisions by Leahy, and now Welch, will create the first open seats in Vermont’s three-member congressional delegation since 2006, when the independent Bernie Sanders moved to the Senate and Welch took his seat in the House of Representatives.
While the Senate seat will be open, Welch, who has consistently been one of Vermont’s top pollers during his years in the House, would have an immediate advantage.
Popular Republican governor of Vermont, Phil Scott, has said he is not interested in running for the Senate. It is unclear who the state’s GOP will find to run for either the Senate seat or the House of Representatives seat.
Vermont has never sent a woman or an ethnic minority member to Washington. Several women politicians have expressed an interest in running for a vacant seat, but the only person who has said they would run for the House of Representatives if Welch ran for the Senate is Democratic State Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale.
Welch from Norwich was first elected to the US House of Representatives in 2006.
During his years in the House of Representatives, he has advocated energy efficiency, lowered prescription drug prices, invested in infrastructure, and expanded broadband in rural Vermont and the country.
As of that year, Welch was vice-chairman of the House of Representatives Democratic Caucus and a member of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.
In the House of Representatives, he was a member of the Special Standing Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on Energy and Trade, and the Committee on Oversight and Reform.
What has earned a place in the House of Representatives and is very popular there, said Linda Fowler, professor emeritus of government at Dartmouth College.
Welch was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. After studying law, he moved to Vermont in the early 1970s. He served as a public defender and started his own law firm.
He was elected to the Vermont Senate in 1980 and became the first pro tempore Democrat to be elected President of the Senate in 1985. In 2002 he was re-elected to the state Senate, and held that position until he was elected to the House of Representatives four years later.
Welch said that although the country was facing extreme challenges, he was optimistic.
“I’ve seen Vermonters come together to solve problems,” he said. “We focus on solutions, not who gets credit. This is the Vermont way. That’s how I did it as a Vermont Congressman, and I’ll make it if I’m elected to the US Senate. “