Leahy’s retirement shakes up Vermont politics

Its. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph Leahy Congress moves toward year-end chaos White House presses Congress to pass bipartisan government funding bills First openly lesbian judge confirmed in federal circuit court MORE(D-Vt.) Monday’s announcement that he had decided to withdraw set off a chain reaction in Vermont’s political sphere, setting the stage for a series of closely watched primaries.

Rep. Peter welchPeter Francis WelchHouse Passes 1 Trillion Infrastructure Bills, Advances Social Spending Plan Healthcare Overnight: Superior Court Skeptic About Texas Law Democrats Compete to Agree on Prescription Drug Prices PLUS he is largely seen as the heir apparent to replace Leahy, and the retiring senator refers to his fellow Vermont Democrat as “the notable Congressman Peter Welch.”

Welch and Leahy were present at the signing of the bipartisan infrastructure bill at the White House on Monday. When asked about a possible race to replace Leahy, Welch said “today is Patrick’s Day.”

If Welch runs for Senate, it would likely trigger a crowded and competitive Democratic primary race for his overall House seat. Vermont Senate Interim President Becca Balint, State Senator Kesha Ram-Hinsdale and Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray are among the names that have been proposed for the position.

“I think all the action here will replace Welch,” said Matthew Dickinson, professor of political science at Middlebury College in Vermont.

“Because this is a blue state, whoever wins the nomination will have an advantage in the general election, almost certainly,” he said. “Yes [Welch] I don’t think any credible Democrat will challenge him in the primaries. ”

The urgency to elect a woman in a state that has yet to send one to the Capitol is growing.

“The pressure is definitely high,” said Elaine Haney, executive director of Emerge Vermont, a group dedicated to electing Democratic women to public office. “We have received a lot of comments in the public media that it is time for a woman to step up.”

All three women have also been put forward as potential candidates for Leahy’s job, but most insiders say they are more likely to launch House bids.

“There is no question that the state will send a woman to Congress in 2022,” said Julia Barnes, former executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party. “It’s just a question of whether we send someone with the skills and values ​​to represent Vermont and navigate the potentially tense environment for Democrats after the midterm elections.”

Then there’s the question of whether Republican Vermont Gov. Phil Scott will run for Senate, a question his office sought to sideline on Monday.

“No possibility!” a Scott spokesperson he told the VT Digger. “Governor Scott has made it clear that he will not run for the United States Senate or House of Representatives next year. That has not changed “.

That will likely disappoint many Republicans in the Blue State, where Scott is seen as one of the best possible Republican contenders for national office, particularly with the retirement of Leahy, who has served eight terms and is second-highest in the House. . .

National Republicans are working to find a solid path to regain a majority in the upper house next year. The GOP’s chances of regaining the Senate were reduced last week when the neighboring governor of New Hampshire. Chris sununuChris SununuSunday Shows Preview: Biden Administration Faces Rising Inflation Biden To Travel To New Hampshire, Michigan To Promote Infrastructure Package McConnell Wins, Biden Lose, Trump Fumes MORE (R) announced that he would not run for Senate and would instead seek reelection.

“When you think of Republican candidates with reputations across the state [in Vermont]It’s a very thin bank, ”said Dickinson. “Yes [Scott] he decided to run, he would probably be the most credible opponent, but there is still no indication from Scott that he will run. ”

Last year, a VPR-Vermont PBS Survey 2020 Showing Scott leading Leahy between 41 and 38 percent in a hypothetical showdown raised eyebrows on the state, prompting some to question whether Scott would launch an offer. Leahy responded to the survey in September of last year, questioning some of her past results and saying she didn’t care.

Democrats are still seen as having the upper hand in the race, and the nonpartisan Cook Political Report calls him a “solid Democrat.”

Jim Barnett, Republican strategist and former assistant to former Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas (R), noted that Republicans have a “Sununu problem” when it comes to recruiting a credible candidate for the seat.

“The best candidate for the job doesn’t want it,” Barnett said.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC aligned with the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnell How Biden Should Sell His Infrastructure Bill Trump Criticizes McConnell, Says Senator Should Attend Biden Signing Ceremony Deafening Republican Silence Like After January. 6 threats of violence escalate MORE (R-Ky.) Released a statement shortly after Leahy’s retirement announcement on Monday saying the political environment was in his favor.

“Pat Leahy is smart enough to see the Republican momentum-building signs that threaten to drive his party out of power,” said Steven Law, the group’s chairman. “As angry Americans continue to register their discontent with the Democratic mismanagement of the country, there is no question that this is a canary in the coal mine for the fragile majority of Democrats in the Senate.”

But Republicans in Vermont say they face serious headwinds.

“Our problem in Vermont is that we have a very thin bank,” Barnett said.


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