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Peter Welch on winning the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate

Peter Welch stands outside in downtown Montpelier speaking with other people on a sunny day.
Connor Cyrus
/
Vermont Public
U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, seen here speaking with voters in Montpelier on Primary Election Day, won the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate.

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch won the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate Tuesday night in a landslide victory over opponents Isaac Evans-Frantz and Niki Thran.

In November, he'll face Republican nominee and Army veteran Gerald Malloy. Both are vying to fill the seat of Sen. Patrick Leahy, who is retiring after more than four decades in the Senate.

Find the full 2022 Vermont Primary Election results here.

Vermont Public’s Connor Cyrus spoke with Welch. He began by reflecting on the possibility of serving in the Senate. Their conversation below has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Peter Welch: Well, it's really exciting to be given this opportunity to serve Vermonters. And we've got a long general election ahead of us. It's a really crucial election for Vermont, and for the country, we have to keep the Senate on the path of continuing to focus on climate change, reproductive freedom, voting rights, and Vermont is going to make a decision that will be very pivotal.

Connor Cyrus: It's going to be an interesting election because [of the] upset or surprising victory on the Republican side seeing Gerald Malloy [defeat] Christina Nolan. What is it going to take to try to win over some of those Republican voters that really are anti-establishment?

Well, I am always, since I served in the state Senate, and in Congress, been focused on the everyday needs of everyday Vermonters. That's why I've always had a focus on bringing down the cost of prescription drugs, making health care more affordable, doing all we can to make housing affordable — which is an increasing challenge — and having fair taxes. So, the goal I have is to continue representing what Vermonters actually want. And that's an opportunity for everyone to work hard and improve their lives and make the family secure.

"It's a really crucial election for Vermont, and for the country, we have to keep the Senate on the path of continuing to focus on climate change, reproductive freedom, voting rights, and Vermont is going to make a decision that will be very pivotal."
U.S. Rep. Peter Welch

As we look at Vermont politics, when we look at some of the victories on the Democratic side, we're seeing more progressive winners. And when we look at the Republican side, we're seeing the Trump-looking side or the more conservative side of that party. How do we as Vermonters find a middle ground in terms of getting things done?

Well, what I'm going to do is what I've always done, I've worked with anybody who wants to help us solve problems, they're going to help Vermonters.

So for instance, I created the broadband caucus that had 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats, because all of us represented folks who need better broadband. So my approach has always been [to] focus on the needs of the people you represent. And for me that's Vermonters. Find others who share a common problem, and then work together to try to find solutions.

And frankly, I think that's how Vermonters do it. We go to town meetings. We're there with people that disagree with us, but we walk out at the end of the day, we've got some of those folks who disagree with us coaching our kids, and literally, and we know that we're all in it together at the end of the day.

And you know, we've got to build trust, we have to restore trust, a democracy depends not so much on rules, they matter, the rules, a lot, absolutely important. The trust is really more important than anything else. So that's what I think Vermonters stand for, we trust one another. We've got to restore that in our governance.

You've been campaigning for many, many years to represent us in Congress. And now you want to represent us in the Senate, how is campaigning different for each chamber?

I don't think it really is different. I mean, in Congress, of course, Vermont, we have one [House] seat. So I've had the campaign and the honor of campaigning statewide. And that'll be the same running for the U.S. Senate. So I see the campaign, the issues, really being very much the same serving in the Senate. It's really hard to fill the shoes and Patrick Leahy, but I've got to do my best to succeed him and carry on those values that he's represented for decades.

Any big revelations when it comes to just how people are feeling when it comes to how they want you to represent us in D.C.?

Well, what I'm hearing is, I think that all Vermonters are dismayed at the dysfunction in Washington. And I think there's been immense relief that finally the Senate has passed this major bill that would have us address the environment that is a crisis, that we are passing a bill to finally lower the cost of prescription drugs and cap out-of-pocket costs to $2,000.

Government's got to work, and we are what I'm hearing from Vermonters is get things done, work together, try to trust one another.

"They can expect to see me everywhere to be answering their questions, to be out and about. I mean, the biggest joy I've had in public service is the opportunity to visit with and learn from Vermonters, and I'm going to continue that, that's the joy of the job."
U.S. Rep. Peter Welch

As we look towards the future, what can people expect from you on the campaign trail and in debates?

They can expect to see me everywhere, to be answering their questions, to be out and about. I mean, the biggest joy I've had in public service is the opportunity to visit with and learn from Vermonters, and I'm going to continue that, that's the joy of the job.

And you know, Vermont has values that I think all of us are custodians of, and we need more of Vermont values, listening more than we talk. Finding common ground, having a practical orientation to getting important things done that are good for families and for our environment. That's what you'll see more.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or tweet us @vermontpublic.

Connor Cyrus joined Vermont Public as host and senior producer in March 2021. He was a morning reporter at WJAR in Providence, Rhode Island. A graduate of Lyndon State College (now Northern Vermont University), he started his reporting career as an intern at WPTZ, later working for WAGM in Presque Isle, Maine, and WCAX Channel 3, where he covered a broad range of stories from Vermont’s dairy industry to the nurses’ strikes at UVM Medical Center. He’s passionate about journalism’s ability to shed light on complex or difficult topics, as well as giving voice to underrepresented communities.
Marlon is the Vermont Public news fellow. He joined Vermont Public in the spring of 2021 after graduating from Saint Michael’s College with a degree in media studies, journalism, and digital arts. Originally from Queens, New York, he comes from a family of storytellers
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