Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy will not seek re-election
Montpelier, Vt. — Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the current longest-serving member of the Senate, said Monday that he will not seek re-election next year for the seat he has held for eight terms.
Leahy, 81, said he and his wife, Marcel, concluded, “It is time to pass the torch to the next Vermonter who will continue this work for our great nation. It is time to go home.”
Announcing the end of a political era. Leahy was first elected to the Senate in 1974, the last of the so-called Watergate children to be elected after President Richard Nixon’s resignation. During nearly half a century in the Senate, Vermont has gone from one of the most powerful Republican states in the country to one of the most progressive.
This transition will be crucial for Democrats who hope to maintain control of the Senate after next year’s midterm elections. With the council evenly divided, the party could not afford to lose any of its current seats.
Leahy will leave the Senate with a record of promoting human rights, working to ban landmines and protecting individual privacy rights. He was an environmentalist, especially Lake Champlain, the body of water that separates northern Vermont from northern New York State.
He’s also known for the quirky side of his love for Batman and the Grateful Dead. He appeared in five Batman films, telling the Joker in 2008’s “The Dark Knight” that he “didn’t scare us thugs.” He’s also attended at least half a dozen Dead concerts, including watching some from the theater itself.
“Do I call myself dead? With pride,” he once wrote.
By retiring and creating the first vacant position in Vermont’s congressional delegation since 2006, Leahy set up a scramble for his succession among a number of up-and-coming state politicians.
Matthew Dickinson, a professor of political science at Middlebury College, said a likely option to succeed Leahy would be Democratic Representative Peter Welch, the state’s only member of the US House of Representatives.
Dickinson said Welch’s fundraising is going well and noted that the 74-year-old Welch has consistently enjoyed high approval ratings.
“I think he would be the logical candidate, and that would shape the musical chairs around who would replace him in Congress,” Dickinson said.
It is uncertain which GOP candidates may seek their party’s nomination to run in the November elections. Phil Scott, the state’s Republican governor who has repeatedly criticized former President Donald Trump and called for civilisation in politics, reiterated Monday that he is not interested in running.
Governor Scott has been clear that he will not run for the US Senate next year. That hasn’t changed,” Scott’s press secretary, Jason Mollucci, said via email.
Scott praised Leahy in a statement after the senator’s announcement, calling him “an incredible champion for Vermonters.”
“Thanks to him, and the funding he has for our state, Vermont is in a position to emerge from this pandemic stronger than before and address significant challenges from broadband and infrastructure to the opioid crisis,” Scott said.
Leahy is Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the highest ranking member of both the Senate Judiciary and Agriculture Committees. Earlier this year, Leahy, during his third term as interim speaker of the Senate, presided over the second impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. As interim president, he is third in the presidency after the vice president and speaker of the House of Representatives.
In September, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, the longest-serving Republican senator, said he would seek an eighth term in 2022, giving the party more confidence to fill that seat as it struggles to beat the Democrats’ advantage with one vote thanks to deputy. The role of President Kamala Harris in breaking the tie.
Leahy said he is proud of his service to his state and his work to make a difference for Vermont residents.
“I know I was there for my case when I needed it most. I know I took our best ideas and helped them grow. I carried Vermont’s voice to the values of the US Senate and Vermont around the world.”
Ring reported from Stowe, Vt.
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