Welch moves from House to Senate to succeed Leahy in Vermont

Nov 8, 2022, 3:00 AM | Updated: 5:22 pm
Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) speaks at an event on Wednesday Oct. 5, 2022, in Winooski, Vt. Welch is fa...

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) speaks at an event on Wednesday Oct. 5, 2022, in Winooski, Vt. Welch is facing Republican Gerald Malloy in the general election, for the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Patrick Leah. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring, File)

(AP Photo/Wilson Ring, File)

Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch easily defeated a little-known Republican challenger to win the Senate seat being vacated by Patrick Leahy, the longest-serving member of the upper chamber.

Welch, who was elected to the House in 2006 and won reelection with lopsided votes every two years since, defeated Republican Gerald Malloy, a retired U.S. Army officer endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

In a year in which the parties are grappling for control of the Senate, Welch’s election keeps the seat from the deep blue state safely in the Democratic column.

Welch, 75, drew some criticism before the vote for giving up his House seniority to start as a freshman Senator. But he said his experience was needed in the Senate at a time when he feels the foundation of American democracy is under threat.

Welch pitched himself as someone able to work across the aisle and find common ground with Republican colleagues in a hyper-partisan era.

Leahy, who was first elected to the Senate in 1974, was the last of the so-called “Watergate babies” elected to Congress after the resignation that year of former President Richard Nixon.

In the House, Welch worked for energy efficiency, cutting the prices of prescription drugs, investing in infrastructure, and expanding broadband into rural areas. He served on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Welch was a chief deputy whip of the House Democratic Caucus, and a member of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.

In his bid for the Senate, Welch spent nearly $2.5 million this election cycle, and as of Sept. 30 still had nearly $2.7 million in the bank.

Malloy, a political newcomer who moved to Vermont in 2020, defeated a more mainstream Republican in Vermont’s August primary. He spent about $165,000 during the primary and general election, and had about $61,000 in the bank.

Malloy said he was a traditional pro-life conservative who believes that regulating abortion should be left to the states.

Welch was born in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont in 1974, where he first worked as a public defender. He was a longtime member of the Vermont Senate, and was its first Democratic Senate president pro tempore. In 2006, he won the U.S. House seat, which became vacant when Bernie Sanders moved from the House to the Senate.

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              Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) speaks at an event on Wednesday Oct. 5, 2022, in Winooski, Vt. Welch is facing Republican Gerald Malloy in the general election, for the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Patrick Leah. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring, File)
            
              Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gerald Malloy campaigns on Friday Oct. 28, 2022 in St. Albans, Vt. Malloy is running against Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., in the general election, for the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Patrick Leah. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring, File)
            
              Becca Balint, left, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House for Vermont, stands with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), center, and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), on Oct. 22, 2022, at a campaign rally in Barre, Vt. Balint faces Liam Madden, an Independent who won the Vermont Republican primary. Welch, is running for the Vermont U.S. Senate seat currently held by the retiring Patrick Leahy. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke)
            
              FILE - Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gerald Malloy campaigns on Friday Oct. 28, 2022, in St. Albans, Vt. Malloy faces Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, in the race to succeed Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, who is retiring. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring, File)

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Welch moves from House to Senate to succeed Leahy in Vermont