After voters headed to the polls in Vermont, Rep. Peter Welch will succeed fellow Democrat Patrick Leahy in the Senate, NBC News projects, while Republican Gov. Phil Scott has been reelected.
Leahy's 48-year tenure made him the longest-serving member in the current U.S. Senate.
Welch easily defeated little-known Republican challenger 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, who served in the House for 16 years, told a cheering crowd in Burlington that Vermonters will have a hand in strengthening and protecting democracy.
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“This state offers America hope for the future,“ the senator-elect said. “With the Vermont way, we can be successful and face the challenges that are before us, and I am so excited to be your representative in the United States Senate to take those Vermont values to Washington.”
Leahy, a giant in Vermont politics, spoke at the Democrats' election night party as well.
“Every single one of you, on Jan. 3 at noon, when Peter stands there and takes the oath of office, you can say, ‘Vermont, all of us, we’re in good hands,’” Leahy told the audience at the Democrats’ election night party.
There was no immediate word from the Malloy campaign.
Scott is being sent back to Montpelier for his fourth two-year term, beating Democrat and progressive activist Brenda Siegel and three independent candidates.
Although a Republican, Scott was a frequent critic of former President Donald Trump, and voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 election. Scott led Vermont through the COVID-19 pandemic, winning high marks for helping the state avoid some of the harsh impacts felt by other states.
Since he became governor in 2017, Scott says, he has focused on minimizing the tax burden on Vermonters, ensuring that vulnerable Vermonters are helped and growing the economy.
Voters approved a constitutional amendment that would protect reproductive rights in the state, including abortion, NBC News projected. Other states were also considering measures to regulate reproductive health after the U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion.
In 2019, the Democratic-controlled Vermont Legislature passed a law guaranteeing abortion rights, and the state began the process of amending the constitution. The proposal had to be passed by two consecutively elected legislatures. The final step was the statewide referendum.
The constitutional amendment does not contain the word “abortion.”
Supporters said that’s because it’s intended to authorize not only abortion but guarantee reproductive rights such as the right to get pregnant or have access to birth control. Opponents said the wording is vague and could have unintended consequences. Among concerns that critics raised is that it would protect late-term abortions, which are very rare.
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Democrat Becca Balint won the race for Vermont’s single seat in the U.S. House, NBC News projected. Her election ends Vermont’s status as the only state to have never sent a woman to Congress. She is also its first openly gay representative there.
In a speech Tuesday night, Balint announced she received a concession call from the Republican nominee in the race, Liam Madden. Balint pledged to serve with kindness and courage while fighting to strengthen the middle class, address climate climate and pursue racial equity.
“Tonight, we reaffirm that Vermont and the nation is still a place where anything is possible,” Balint said. “We are all still capable of change and promise and progress, and tonight, after 231 years, Vermonters are sending a woman to Congress!”
Balint and Welch will join Sen. Bernie Sanders in Vermont’s three-person congressional delegation.
“With Peter alongside of me in the Senate, and Becca in the House, we are going to become a model of what this country can be in terms of fighting for ordinary people— not just the people on top,” said Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.
More than a third of Vermont’s active voters had already returned their ballots going into the weekend ahead of Election Day, according to Secretary of State Jim Condos. As of Friday, more than 150,000 of the 440,000 voters considered “active” had already returned their ballots — either by mail or by bringing them to their town or city clerks’ offices. Vermont has roughly 500,000 registered voters total.