Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont announced Monday that he will not seek another term. The 81-year-old, who is the longest-serving senator currently in office, has been in the Senate since 1975.
“It is time to put down the gavel,” said Leahy, the Senate’s president pro tempore and currently third in the line of presidential succession, according to CNN.
“It is time to pass the torch to the next Vermonter, who’ll carry on this work for our great state. It’s time to come home.”
The 2022 election is critical to control of the Senate, which is now split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats (including independents who caucus with Democrats).
In the 2022 elections, 14 Senate seats held by Democrats will be on ballots in states around the country. Twenty seats currently held by the GOP are to be filled.
Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s press secretary, Jason Maulucci, indicated Scott is not likely to seek the seat.
“Governor Scott has been clear that he is not running for the U.S. Senate next year. That has not changed,” he said, according to CNN.
“It is thanks to him, and the funding he’s secured for our state, that Vermont is in a position to come out of this pandemic stronger than before and tackle big challenges from broadband and infrastructure to the opioid crisis,” he said.
Matthew Dickinson, a political science professor at Middlebury College, said Democratic Rep. Peter Welch, the state’s sole congressman, would be a likely candidate.
“I think he would be the logical candidate, and that would set up the musical chairs about who replaces him in Congress,” Dickinson said, according to The Associated Press.
Democrats currently enjoy a razor-thin majority in the House of Representatives, meaning that the 2002 race for control there could be tightened depending on who wins any open seat for the House from Vermont.
Dickinson said the GOP would not have many options if Scott does not run, according to The Hill.
“When you think of Republican candidates with statewide reputation, it’s a very thin bench,” Dickinson said. “If he decided to run, he would probably be the most credible opponent, but there’s no indication yet from Scott that he’s going to run.”
Today marks one year out from the 2022 midterms.
We have 365 days to make sure we take back the House and Senate!
— GOP (@GOP) November 8, 2021
However, the Senate Leadership Fund, a GOP super PAC, said Leahy’s retirement was a sign that the GOP is poised to gain power.
“Pat Leahy is smart enough to see the signs of building Republican momentum that threaten to sweep his party out of power,” said Steven Law, the group’s president, according to The Hill.
“As angry Americans continue to register their discontent with Democratic mismanagement of the country, there is little doubt this is a canary in the coal mine for Democrats’ fragile Senate majority.”
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