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Peter Welch to run for Senate seat in Vermont vacated by Patrick Leahy

By Adam Schrader
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Peter Welch to run for Senate seat in Vermont vacated by Patrick Leahy
U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., speaks during a Health subcommittee hearing on the opioid crisis  in 2018. He has announced plans to run for the U.S. Senate in 2022. File Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 22 (UPI) -- Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., announced Monday that he would run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Patrick Leahy, who is retiring.

Welch, 74, made the announcement in a video message along with a link to his campaign website posted to his social media accounts.

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"Here in Vermont, we listen more than we talk," Welch said. "I got into politics as a community organizer after I saw what housing discrimination was doing to communities in Chicago. And I learned that the best way to help people is to start by listening, to focus on the solutions, not who gets the credit."

In the video, Welch describes his campaign's stances on voting rights, Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and topics including "reproductive justice" and "racial and economic justice."

RELATED Rep. G.K. Butterfield won't seek re-election, cites 'racial' gerrymandering

"It's a difficult time for all Vermonters. The coronavirus has been long and hard. But it shouldn't be hard for your government to help people," Welch said.

Welch criticized the "Mitch McConnell Republicans" and his colleagues for "fighting for failure." McConnell previously served as the Senate Majority Leader during which he wielded a tight control over the actions of Congress.

Welch, who has served as Vermont's only congressman since 2006, warned in his video message to Vermonters that "powerful outside interests will come to Vermont to try to advance their interests."

"They know an open seat in Vermont could be the difference between passing our positive agenda and Mitch McConnell holding the Senate again," Welch said.

RELATED Democrat Rep. Jackie Speier announces she won't seek re-election

No candidates had announced a run for the House seat Welch will vacate.

Leahy, 81, has been the longest-serving Democrat in the U.S. Senate after first winning the seat in 1974 but said at a press conference last week that it was time to "put down the gavel" and "pass the torch."

The nine-term senator, who presided over former president Donald Trump's second impeachment trial, chairs the Senate appropriations committee and is third in the line of succession to the presidency as president pro tempore of the Senate.

Welch's announcement comes as a slew of Democrats have revealed that they plan to leave the House.

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Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., said on Thursday that he would be retiring after the map for his congressional district was redrawn, criticizing it as "racially gerrymandered."

And Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, announced she would be retiring, upholding a 2019 promise to constituents that her current term would be her last.

During her retirement speech, Johnson emphasized the support she received across the aisle to achieve some of her accomplishments as the first Black woman ever elected to public office in Dallas.

"I'm proud of what I've done because there is no Texan in the history of this state who has brought more home," Johnson said, according to the Texas Tribune. "As much as we trash the names of some of the Republicans, they were some of the same ones that helped me be successful."

During the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans would only need to win one seat from Democrats to take back control of the Senate.

Five Republicans have also recently announced they will not run again: Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Rob Portman of Ohio, Richard C. Shelby of Alabama and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania.

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