MONTPELIER, Vt. â The leader of Vermontâs state Senate,Â Becca Balint, won the Democratic Party primary on Tuesday for Vermontâs lone seat in the US House of Representatives, meaning she could become the first woman and the first openly gay person to represent the state in Congress.
In deep-blue Vermont, itâs likely the Democratic candidate will also clinch the general election in November. A win by Balint, who is white, would help erase what some consider to be the blot on the liberal stateâs reputation of only being represented by white men.
Balint garnered support from the progressive wing of the state party, including the independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, and national progressive leaders such as Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Balint had campaigned with Sanders late last month.
Balint defeated Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, a more centrist candidate who was supported by the stateâs Democratic establishment, including retiring US Sen. Patrick Leahy and former governors Howard Dean and Madeleine Kunin.
In a statement, Balint thanked her opponents in the primary and said she was âhumbled and honored by this victory.â
âTonight is a big step forward for our state. Vermont has chosen a bold, progressive vision for the future, and I will be proud to represent us in Congress,â Balint said. âWe can preserve democracy, tackle climate change, bridge inequality, and make the health care system work for all of us. I know that we will.â
In a concession speech, Gray said sheâd called Balint to congratulate her on the win.
âWhile my disappointment is profound, so too is my gratitude for his opportunity,â Gray said. âThis was a tough race with deeply qualified candidates making their case to Vermonters.â
Vermont voters also chose Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch to replace Leahy, who has held the seat since 1975 and was the last of Congressâs so-called Watergate babies. Welchâs decision to run for the Senate seat opened up his seat in the House, the first time since 2006 that there have been any openings in Vermontâs three-member congressional delegation.
Welch easily defeated two little-known candidates to move on to the general election in November. During his years in Congress, Welch has been one of Vermontâs top vote-getters and would be an odds-on favorite to win the general election.
Welch will face retired US Army officer Gerald Malloy, who defeated formerÂ U.S. Attorney Christina NolanÂ in Tuesdayâs Republican primary for the Senate seat. Malloy says he believes he can win in November, although no Republican has represented the state in Washington since 2001 when the late Sen. Jim Jeffords left the GOP to become an independent, switching control of the Senate from Republican to Democratic.
Incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Scott also cruised to his partyâs primary victory, defeating two candidates as he seeks a fourth term. The lone candidate for the Democratic nomination is activist Brenda Siegel, of Newfane. Last fall she spent 27 nights sleeping on the steps of the Vermont Statehouse to highlight the stateâs homelessness challenge.
Liam Madden, a Marine Corps veteran who describes himself as a non-traditional candidate, won the GOP primary, defeating Ericka Redic of Burlington and Anya Tynio of Charletson.
Madden says heâs an independent, and has said he considered declining the nomination if he won â until he learned that would allow the party to choose a replacement for the November ballot.
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