By WILSON RING, Associated Press
NORWICH, Vt. (AP) — Vermont’s sole member of the U.S. House of Representatives has always embraced his role as a liberal Democrat for the past 16 years, but says he will carry the state’s tradition of working across the political aisle if elected will the US Senate next month.
Rep. Peter Welch, who is vying for the resignation of Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, said if he is elected to the upper house of Congress, he will continue to try to find common ground with Republicans despite the current bipartisan political climate.
Welch is 75 and his decision to run for the Senate has been questioned by some in Vermont, who believe he would serve the state better by staying in the House of Representatives and maintaining the seniority he built up there.
But Welch, who was working in the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021 riot, said he believes he can put his Senate experience to better use because he believes the foundation of American democracy is at risk.
“We’re not talking about building up seniority so that in 20 years we can do something to preserve our democracy,” Welch recently told The Associated Press in his hometown of Norwich. “We’re talking about something to start in January 2023. So it’s the urgency and the experience I’ve had in the position to make a big difference right away.”
Regardless of the outcome of the Nov. 8 election, the Senate is likely to remain deeply divided. And assuming Welch is elected, he’s expected to follow his party’s leadership despite his well-intentioned promise of bipartisanship, said Matt Dickinson, a professor of political science at Middlebury College.
“I think his push for bipartisanship is going to hit that brick wall of deadlocked polarization,” Dickinson said. “Well, you know, good intentions can only get you so far.”
If he wins, Welch would join independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in that chamber. It’s also likely that Democrat Becca Balint will win the seat in the Welch House of Representatives, which would make her the first woman elected to Congress from Vermont, which also has never sent anyone to Washington who is not white .
Since Welch was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2006, he has been one of Vermont’s leading voters nationwide, although it has been years since he faced a serious opponent. Welch is known for listening to the needs of his constituents, whether they are Democrats or Republicans.
“I think people can trust that his primary drive is to help all of us live better lives and connect to an element of the uplifting part of the American dream, and no matter where you are, your life can.” improved,” said George Gay. a Stowe attorney, said of Welch during a campaign rally for Democratic Vermont gubernatorial nominee Brenda Siegel, “He’s passionate about it.”
Welsh supporter Dawn Blow, an independent, said the congresswoman held some conference calls after the Jan. 6 riot, in which she was called.
“I felt like he understood the fight for democracy at that point,” Blow said at a recent campaign rally in Barre. “And I think he represents the best of Vermont.”
Welch has spent nearly $2.5 million this election cycle and still had nearly $2.7 million in the bank as of Sept. 30. His Republican opponent, retired U.S. Army officer and political newcomer Gerald Malloy of Perkinsville, spent about $165,000 during the general election primary and has about $61,000 in the bank.
Malloy is a traditional conservative who opposes abortion rights and believes that regulating abortion should be a matter for states. He also wants to reduce levels of national and national debt and crack down on illegal immigration, including building the border wall started by former President Donald Trump. Unlike some members of his party, Malloy does not deny that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election.
“I think my chances are good,” Malloy said recently at a campaign stop in St. Albans.
During his years in the House of Representatives, Welch has worked for energy efficiency, lowered prescription drug prices and invested in infrastructure. He has served on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
Beginning that year, Welch served as Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Caucus and as a member of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.
But Welch also points to a number of instances where he took a stand by working with Republican colleagues to advance issues important to Vermonters, including when he spoke out against what he believed to be onerous federal regulations, restrict entrepreneurs.
He points to his 2014 opposition to Food and Drug Administration plans that would have made it more difficult, if not impossible, for craft brewers to feed draff to livestock. In another case, Welch worked with a group of bipartisan lawmakers to get the FDA to move away from regulations that would have prevented artisanal cheesemakers from aging their products on wooden shelves
In 2016, Welch co-founded the House Rural Broadband Caucus with another Democrat and two Republicans to focus on expanding broadband internet service in rural, hard-to-reach areas of the country that are desperate for modern communications systems.
Associated Press writer Lisa Rathke in Barre contributed to this report.
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