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Patrick Leahy, Washington's Longest-Serving Senator, Will Seek Eighth Term

J. Scott Applewhite
Sen. Patrick Leahy, right, sits with Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Jan. 29. Leahy's campaign staff says he's actively raising money for his 2016 campaign.

Sen. Patrick Leahy has decided to seek an eighth term in office. His campaign staff says he's actively raising money for the 2016 election.

Leahy was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1974. He's been reelected six times and has spent the past 41 years representing the state of Vermont. Currently, he is the longest serving senator in Washington; he'll turn 75 at the end of March.

In the previous Congressional session, when Democrats controlled the Senate, Leahy was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the president of the chamber. All that changed when Republicans became the majority party in November.

Carolyn Dwyer, Leahy's campaign manager, says Leahy is eager to run for an eighth term.

“The reality is that you do have to plan ahead, so his staff is working on putting the infrastructure in place for a 2016 campaign,” Dwyer said Monday. “An official announcement will come down the road at a time and place that's appropriate." 

"[Leahy] is cognizant of the need to make sure he has the resources not only to wage a successful campaign, but to combat anything that might come his way on the national scene." - campaign manager Carolyn Dwyer

Dwyer says the campaign is actively fundraising because it wants to have enough money if Leahy is targeted for defeat by some national conservative organizations.

“He is cognizant of the need to make sure he has the resources not only to wage a successful campaign, but to combat anything that might come his way on the national scene,” says Dwyer.

Retired Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis doubts that Leahy will face a strong Republican challenger. That's because he says few Republicans will want to challenge a seven-term incumbent who has several million dollars in his campaign bank account. Davis also thinks the Vermont GOP will view 2016 as a year to concentrate on statewide and legislative races.

"I think the Republicans would think that a Republican gubernatorial candidate might have a good chance of winning the office in 2016, so they'll certainly concentrate on that office, and trying to pick up a few more seats in the Legislature as well,” Davis predicts.

Davis thinks the Democrats have a decent chance to regain control of the U.S. Senate in 2016 because the Republicans have many more incumbents up for re-election. If the Democrats become the majority party again, it's very likely that Leahy would return as the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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