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Congressman Peter Welch to run for U.S. Senate after Sen. Leahy opts to not seek re-election

Rep. Peter Welch.
Alex Brandon
Associated Press File

Rep. Peter Welch will run for the U.S. Senate, aiming to win the seat that will be vacated next year when Sen. Patrick Leahy retires.

Vermont Public Radio has learned that Welch, who has served eight terms in the U.S. House, is planning to seek the seat that will become open after the announced retirement of Sen. Patrick Leahy.

In his upcoming Senate campaign, Welch says he plans to highlight many of the issues that are part of President Joe Biden's "Build Back Better" bill that passed the House late last week.

"And now we're saying 'hey, let's invest in families, let's invest in communities, and certainly let's start tackling in an aggressive way the existential challenge of climate change," Welch told VPR last week.

Welch's announcement means that there will now be a vacancy in Vermont's sole seat in the U.S. House.

Vermont has never sent a woman to Congress, and there are a number of Democratic women serving in leadership roles in the Legislature who have expressed strong interest in filling Welch's seat in the House.

The 74-year-old Welch has served in the House since 2007.

Essex Rep. Tanya Vyhovsky wrote in a statement shortly after Leahy announced his retirement that she also intends to "explore a campaign" for the Senate on a "people powered, democratic socialist platform."

In a statement, Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed Welch's bid for the Senate.

"With his years in Congress, Peter has the knowledge and experience to hit the ground running as a strong advocate for Vermont's working families, and to fight for a government that works for all, and not just the wealthy few," Sanders said. "That's why I'm proud to endorse Peter today and look forward to serving with him in the Senate."

Chittenden County Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, who has expressed interest in running for a spot in Vermont’s congressional delegation, also released a statement Monday morning endorsing Welch's Senate bid, stating she believes "Congressman Welch and Senator Sanders will make a strong team for Vermonters in the Senate."

Ram Hinsdale added in her statement that Welch's Senate bid meant she "will be deeply exploring a run for Congress" herself.

This story will be updated.

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