Senator’s upcoming resignation. Patrick Leahy (D-VT.) The longest serving member of the current Senate paves the way for Vermont to send a woman to Congress for the first time in history.
This is all thanks to a series of political music chairs created by Leahy. November announcement that he will not be re-elected next year.
Rep. Peter Welch (D), Vermont’s only representative in the House of Representatives, started my campaign to succeed Leahy shortly after Leahy’s announcement. WITH blessing of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)A giant in public policy, Welch is seen as the de facto castle for the Democratic nomination to the Liberal State.
The main contenders for Welch’s seat in the House of Representatives are all women: Vermont Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray, State Senate President Becca Balint, and State Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale.
Gray, who applied to open the site on Monday, is the only one of the trio to officially announce her candidacy so far. But Ram Hinsdale and Balint are openly amusing themselves.
In addition, State Rep. Tanya Wygowski, who was planning to run for the Senate before Welch announced her bid with Sanders’ approval, told HuffPost that she is choosing a time during the winter break to weigh her options.
While a male candidate may still be in the race, Vermont progressives are hoping the state can relinquish its status as the only country in the country to never send a woman to Congress. The state Democratic congressional primaries, in which all voters can participate, are due on August 9, 2022.
“I am proud to be able to work with a Republican governor and a strong progressive Democratic majority in the legislature.”
– Vermont Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray (D)
“This cycle could mark the beginning of a big generational change in Vermont politics,” said Cameron Russell, a Vermont Democratic Party official who is not associated with any campaign. “And maybe we will finally have the opportunity to send a woman to Washington.”
The struggle for Welch’s success could also affect the ideological balance of power in Congress. Vermont was once the center of the now defunct liberal wing of the Republican Party, but in recent decades the sparsely populated state has become a mainstay of progressive politics.
Sanders, who’s not going anywhere, is the most famous and influential leftist elected official in the country.
Leahy, who was elected the first Democratic Senator from Vermont in 1974, and Welch, who sits on powerful committees, are moderate compared to the populist Sanders. Both men are reliable progressives by national standards, co-sponsors of Sanders’ Medicare for All legislation and openly advocate measures to lower prescription drug prices, limit climate change and protect civil liberties.
However, whichever candidate succeeds, Welch will determine whether the new member of the state’s House of Representatives takes an approach that is ideologically closer to Sanders, closer to Leahy and Welch, or a different sort.
Gray, a Medicare for All supporter who serves under Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, is considered the most moderate of the group.
Gray told HuffPost on Monday that she plans to focus on taking paid family leave and creating affordable housing to help Vermont attract and retain young families.
“We are one of the oldest states in the country with a shrinking workforce, an aging population and a severe demographic crisis, and we have the opportunity to bring new leadership and new ideas to Congress,” she said.
When asked if she is closer in her views to Sanders or to Leahy and Welch, Gray replied: “I am closer to Molly Gray.”
“I am proud to be able to work with a Republican governor and a strong progressive Democratic majority in the legislature,” she added.
Gray, a human rights lawyer who grew up on a farm in South Newbury, did not say if she would join the Progressive faction of Congress.
“I will work with anyone willing to work hard for the Vermonters,” she said.
She also positions herself as the safest bet to win the general election, which she warns voters not to take for granted.
“We have one of the most popular Republican governors in the country with an extremely high approval rating,” Gray said. “We’re going to see Republicans at the national level view Vermont as a place where they can strengthen their foothold and maybe even win.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee, which helps elect Republicans to the House, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on his plans in Vermont.
Ram Hinsdale, a Burlington resident who advises organizations on how to be more diverse, inclusive and fair, looks more progressive than Gray. She told HuffPost that she is “deeply studying” House’s work and that if elected, she will join the Progressive Congress – although she also described herself as a “pretty down-to-earth progressive” who has much to admire in both Sanders and Welch’s approaches.
“I am naturally the most progressive candidate in the race because of my life experience,” said Ram Hinsdale. “I continued to fight for unpopular issues that are now – after racial calculations and another economic downturn – are becoming mainstream.”
Ram Hinsdale, half South Asian and half Jewish, moved to Vermont to attend college and became the first woman of color to serve in the Vermont Senate.
One point that Ram Hinsdale said she was ahead of was how pollution disproportionately harms marginalized communities. She is the main sponsor of the Environmental Justice Bill, which will require government agencies to study how low-income people, as well as blacks, indigenous people and people of color, are disproportionately affected by environmental hazards and pollution.
“In Vermont, we really dream about how much you help your neighbor and how much you support each other.”
– Vermont State Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale (D)
This is all part of Ram Hinsdale’s plan to expand the reach of the Vermont Dream, which she believes is more general than the individualistic American Dream.
“In Vermont, we really dream about how much you help your neighbor and how much you support each other,” said Ram Hinsdale.
“Since I’m here, I’m very proud of it and it’s an honor to experience it, although I know that in a particularly homogeneous rural state, not everyone can experience it,” she added. “So, as the first woman of color in the State Senate, I tried to open this door so other people could get in from the cold and feel the warmth we have in Vermont.”
HuffPost reached out to Balint for an interview but received no response. Balint, an educator by trade, will also become Vermont’s first openly gay member of Congress.
The Democratic primaries in Vermont are likely to get more attention than if the Senate primaries were more competitive.
Some progressives in the state are still suffering from Sanders’ decision to back Welch, almost assuring that Welch, now 74, will be the nominee.
Of those Vermonters who are either running for Congress or considering running, Wygowski, the social worker, most clearly invokes Sanders’ anti-establishment style. Taking advantage of Vermont’s unique voting system, she is running as both a Democrat and a member of the more left-wing Progressive Party.
“I am much more outside the establishment than any of these three because I prefer to work with a third party,” Vygovsky said. “It has consequences and closure of these spaces.”
One of the manifestations of Vygovsky’s independence is her willingness to express her dissatisfaction with the way the field in the Senate has developed.
“In politics, all over the place I fight this idea that people are appointed to these places, and in fact there is no talk about it,” she said.
“Vermonters don’t like anointing, but I don’t think it was or remains so,” Ram Hinsdale said. “Congressman Welch is the best person for this job.”