AP

Vermont likely to elect its 1st woman to Congress this year

May 29, 2022, 4:53 AM | Updated: May 31, 2022, 8:34 am

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — With a rare opening this fall in its congressional delegation, Vermont appears poised to lose its distinction as the only state that has never been represented by a woman in Washington.

Three women, including Lt. Gov. Molly Gray and Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint, are among the Democrats competing in the Aug. 9 primary for the seat being vacated by the state’s lone U.S. House member, Democrat Peter Welch, who is trying to move to the Senate. The two Republican candidates registered to run in the midterm elections are also women.

Given Vermont’s liberal reputation, it might seem strange that it would be the last state to send a woman to Congress. But Vermont’s tiny population makes it one of a handful of states with the smallest possible congressional delegation — two senators and one House member. And like many states, Vermont has traditionally reelected its incumbents, who have happened to be white men who have ended up serving for extraordinarily long stretches. That includes Democrat Patrick Leahy, who was first elected in 1974 and is the fourth-longest-serving senator in history.

“It’s a bottleneck of leadership,” said Elaine Haney, the executive director of Emerge Vermont, an organization that works to prepare women to run for elective office. “And so when someone holds on to all this for a very long time, it shuts off opportunity for everybody else.”´

Last November, Leahy announced he would retire after eight terms in office. Within days, Welch said he would seek the Senate nomination, leaving the at-large House seat vacant for the first time since 2006, when Welch succeeded now-Sen. Bernie Sanders. Sanders has served in the congressional delegation since 1991.

Haney, whose organization helped train some of the women running for the House on how to campaign, noted that women bring a different experience to elected office than do men. That matters, she said, on issues such as abortion rights, a subject highlighted by a leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court that would overturn the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

“I believe strongly — and I think a lot of other people believe strongly — that if women, Democratic women, were actually at the table, these kinds of threatening situations would not be occurring, because women’s lived experiences would be at the center of the discussion and of the policy,” she said.

The Democratic candidates support abortion rights. A referendum on the ballot in Vermont in November would enshrine reproductive rights in the state constitution, the first such amendment in the country. The state also has a law protecting a woman’s right to an abortion.

“We need leaders going to Washington who are unequivocal in making sure that Roe v. Wade is codified at the federal level, and I know that is a top priority for the (Democratic) women in this race,” Gray said.

Welch has also been a fervent supporter of abortion rights and has called on Congress to codify the right to an abortion. He believes electing a woman as his successor will encourage more young people to run for office.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment and I couldn’t be more excited for our state that these women have stepped up to meet the challenge,” Welch said in a statement. “Each of the candidates is uniquely and incredibly talented and I know that they will use their experience to work hard for Vermonters in Congress should they be elected.”

Vermont remains an outlier at a time when the number of women serving in Washington is growing. Montana in 1916 made Rep. Jeannette Rankin the first woman elected to Congress, four years before the 19th Amendment secured women’s constitutional right to vote.

Since then, nearly 400 women have served as U.S. representatives, delegates, resident commissioners or senators,

In 2018, Vermont became the last state without female representation in Congress when Mississippi Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith was appointed to the Senate.

The women seeking the Democratic nomination in the Vermont House race have not focused their campaigns on the possibility that one of them will be the first woman from the state elected to Congress. They are instead promising to seek solutions to build the workforce, ease the state’s affordable housing problem and combat the climate crisis, among other priorities central to the party.

“They’re just not that far apart on a lot of these issues, and I think the election is going to turn on other things, such as questions of temperament and experience and, frankly, name recognition,” said Matthew Dickinson, a political science professor at Middlebury College.

Gray, the lieutenant governor, was elected in 2020 in her first bid for political office. She is a lawyer and a former assistant state attorney general.

Balint has served in the state Senate for eight years, including six years in leadership positions, with the last two as president pro tempore. She was previously a middle school teacher.

A third Democratic candidate, Sianay Chase Clifford, is a social worker from Essex who previously worked in Washington for Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.

The candidates could also make history in other ways. If elected, Balint would be the first openly gay person to represent Vermont in Congress, while Chase Clifford would be the first person of color to represent the state in Washington.

The GOP candidates registered to run for the House seat are accountant Ericka Redic, who lost a state Senate race in 2020, and Anya Tynio, who ran for the U.S. House in 2018 and lost.

Redic says she will focus on fighting inflation, illegal immigration, drug misuse and government overreach, particularly as it concerns vaccine mandates. Tynio said on her website that she is a supporter of the Second Amendment, a proponent of strong border security and supportive of implementing legislation that would reduce inflation, cut the national debt and balance the budget.

Two men are also seeking the House seat: Liam Madden, an independent from Brattleboro who says he is running in the GOP primary, and Louis Meyers, a physician from South Burlington running as a Democrat. Neither has reported raising any money.

While this fall’s election will probably break Vermont’s glass ceiling, it’s likely the state will have other openings over the next few years.

Sanders, an independent, is 80 years old and facing reelection in 2024. Welch is 75.

Haney said she would love to see all of Vermont’s top elected positions held by women.

“We have normalized male leadership throughout our history. And we are so used to seeing no one but men in charge, and we think, ‘Oh, that’s fine,'” she said. “There is nothing wrong with all women being in charge, and that’s what I want to see.”

___

Follow AP for full coverage of the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections and on Twitter, https://twitter.com/ap_politics

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A Boeing 737 Max suffered damage to parts of the plane's structure after it went into a “Dutch ro...

Associated Press

Plane that did ‘Dutch roll’ on flight from Phoenix suffered structural damage, investigators say

A Boeing 737 Max suffered damage to parts of the plane's structure after it went into a “Dutch roll” during a flight from Phoenix last month.

4 days ago

This photo provided by Randy Shannon shows Mooney Falls on the Havasupai reservation outside the vi...

Associated Press

Dozens report illness after trips to waterfalls near Grand Canyon

Dozens of hikers say they fell ill during trips to a popular Arizona tourist destination that features towering blue-green waterfalls deep in a gorge neighboring Grand Canyon National Park.

5 days ago

Mugshot of Rudy Giuliani, who was processed Monday, June 10, 2024, in the Arizona fake electors cas...

Associated Press

Rudy Giuliani posts $10K cash bond after being processed in Arizona fake electors case

Rudy Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and Donald Trump attorney, was processed Monday in the Arizona fake electors case.

7 days ago

FILE - White House former chief of staff Mark Meadows speaks with reporters at the White House, Wed...

Associated Press

Former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows pleads not guilty in Arizona fake elector case

Former Donald Trump presidential chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump 2020 Election Day operations director Michael Roman pleaded not guilty Friday in Phoenix to nine felony charges for their roles in an effort to overturn Trump's Arizona election loss to Joe Biden.

11 days ago

deadly heat wave last summer...

Associated Press

After a deadly heat wave last summer, metro Phoenix is changing tactics

Fresh memories of the deadly heat wave last summer have led Arizona authorities to launch new tactics ahead of summer 2024.

21 days ago

A Yuma man has been arrested for allegedly starting a wildfire in a national wildlife preserve near...

Associated Press

Man accused of starting wildfire in national wildlife preserve in Yuma

A Yuma man has been arrested for allegedly starting a wildfire in a national wildlife preserve near the California border.

22 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

Vermont likely to elect its 1st woman to Congress this year