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Congressman Welch will vie for seat soon to be opened by Senator Leahy

After the Senate's longest-serving member announced his retirement last week, a contender for the 2022 race emerged from Peter Welch, who has represented Vermont in the U.S. House of Representatives for nearly 15 years.

(CN) — Representative Peter Welch announced Monday that he will run for the Senate next year, predicting that the Republicans will try to use the departure of longtime Senator Patrick Leahy to flip control of the chamber.

“I'm running for the United States Senate to work for you, for Vermont, for our country, and for our imperiled democracy,” the Democratic Welch tweeted this morning.

In a nearly 2-minute video announcing his bid, Welch blames “Mitch McConnell Republicans in the Senate” with filibustering the positive legislation that he says Vermonters want: voting rights, the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, to name a few.

They’re fighting for failure,” Welch continues.

Welch, 74, was highly anticipated to launch his campaign after Leahy announced last week that he would not seek reelection. Leahy has held the seat for nearly 50 years, making him the current longest-serving senator. 

In Leahy’s retirement announcement, he thanked Welch for his work as a congressman, calling him “remarkable.”

Welch is considered one of the more liberal representatives and currently serves on the Congressional Progressive Caucus where he has been focused on drug-pricing legislation.

He has also served on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the Committee on Oversight and Reform while in the House.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was quick to endorse Welch, who filled Sanders’ House seat in 2006.

“Peter has the knowledge and experience to fight for a government that works for all, not just the wealthy few,” Sanders tweeted. “That's why I'm proud to endorse Peter today and look forward to serving with him in the Senate.”

Welch has also gained support from California Congressman Adam Schiff, who says Welch is a “superb” choice for senator.

“He's one of the best and brightest in the House,” Schiff tweeted. “Vermont knows Peter. And Peter knows Vermont.”

Having not voted for a republican president since 2001, Vermont is considered to be a blue state. Still, Republican Phil Scott was reelected to be the state’s governor last year with 69% of the votes, and Welch would only be the second Democrat elected to the Senate if he wins.

The Vermont GOP was quick to push back against Welch, calling him a “relic of the past” and saying that Vermonters want a fresh face.

“One of the alarming things about Peter Welch’s announcement today is the dark tone it seems to set for his campaign. Welch has been in Congress for over a decade, and Vermont’s delegation has caucused with Democratic leadership this whole time. Democrats control the US House, the US Senate and the Presidency,” Vermont GOP Chairman Paul Dame said in a statement. “And Peter Welch is concerned about our ‘imperiled democracy’. If our Democracy is imperiled, I think it begs the questions whose leadership brought us there?”

Originally from Massachusetts, Welch moved to Vermont in the 70s where he started his own law firm. He was elected to the Vermont Senate in 1980 where he became the first Democrat to be elected to Senate president pro tempore in 1985.

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