Vermont Lt. Gov. Molly Gray announced Monday she will run for the state’s single House seat, which, if successful, would make her its first female member of Congress.
The campaign is part of a game of musical chairs of sorts among Democrats in the state prompted by the retirement of longtime Sen. Patrick Leahy.
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Vermont’s current Rep. Peter Welch will run to replace Leahy in the Senate, creating a vacancy in the state’s lone congressional district. Gray is the first candidate to join what is expected to become a crowded Democratic primary for a rare vacancy.
In a video announcing her candidacy, Gray said she would “fight like hell for every corner of our state.”
In a statement, Gray pointed to a shrinking workforce, rising housing costs, and paid family leave as some of her priorities if elected to Congress.
“From affordable, quality child care to workforce development, I’m committed to working hard to bring real solutions to Vermont families,” Gray said.
Deep blue Vermont is the only state that has never sent a woman to Congress, a fact some describe as being at odds with its reputation as a stronghold of progressive politics. But with just a single U.S. House seat, opportunities to join the congressional delegation are rare, and those that hold the seats typically do so for decades. Welch was first elected to the House in 2006. Leahy was first elected to the Senate in 1974, while Sen. Bernie Sanders was first elected in 2006, making him the state’s junior senator at 80 years old. He previously held Vermont's House seat for 16 years.
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Vermont is one of a trio of blue states with a popular incumbent Republican governor. The state’s Gov. Phil Scott is one of the most popular Republican governors in the country. Neither of his counterparts, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker or Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, will seek reelection. Scott declined a bid for the Senate in a hypothetical bid widely seen as Republicans’ only chance to win the seat.