Vermont Is Likely To Elect Its First Female Congresswoman This Year

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Three women, including Lt. Gov. Molly Gray and Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint, are among the Democrats vying for the seat vacated by the state’s lone U.S. House member, Democrat Peter Welch, who is seeking to go to the Senate. Both Republican candidates who have registered to run in the midterm elections are women.

Given Vermont’s liberal image, it may appear odd that the state would be the last to send a woman to Congress. However, due to its small population, Vermont has one of the few states with the smallest conceivable congressional delegation – two senators and one House member. And, like many other states, Vermont has typically re-elected its incumbents, who have all been white men.

Leahy announced his retirement in November after eight terms in Congress. Within days, Welch announced his intention to run for the Senate, leaving the at-large House seat vacant for the first time since 2006, when Welch replaced now-Sen. Bernie Sanders. Sanders has been a member of the House delegation since 1991.

Haney, whose group assisted in the training of several women running for House, highlighted that women bring a different experience to public office than males. That matters, she says, on topics like abortion rights, which have been emphasized by a leaked draft judgment from the United States Supreme Court that would reverse the famous Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in 1973.

“I firmly feel — and I believe a lot of other people strongly believe — that if women, Democratic women, were actually at the table, these sorts of dangerous scenarios would not arise because women’s lived experiences would be at the heart of the conversation and policy,” she added.

The Democratic candidates support abortion rights. A proposal on the November ballot in Vermont would codify reproductive rights in the state constitution, making it the country’s first such amendment. A woman’s right to an abortion is also protected by state law.

“We need leaders coming to Washington who are unwavering in their commitment to ensuring that Roe v. Wade is enshrined at the federal level; I know that is a key priority for the administration.”

“There are a lot of (Democratic) women in this race,” Gray added.

Welch has also been an outspoken proponent of abortion rights, urging Congress to legislate the right to an abortion. He feels that choosing a woman to succeed will inspire more young people to run for governor.

When Mississippi Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith was appointed to the Senate in 2018, Vermont became the only state without female representation in Congress.

The Democratic candidates for Vermont House have not centred their campaigns on the potential that one of them could be the state’s first woman elected to Congress. Instead, they propose exploring answers to the state’s affordable housing problems and tackling the environmental disaster, among other party concerns.

“They’re simply not that far different on these issues,” said Matthew Dickinson, a political consultant. “I think the election will hinge on other factors, such as temperament, experience, and, frankly, name recognition.”

Gray, the lieutenant governor, was elected in her maiden political campaign in 2020. She is a former assistant state attorney general and a lawyer.

Balint has been a member of the California Senate for eight years, including six years as a leader, the last two as president pro tempore. She formerly worked as a middle school teacher.

Sianay Chase Clifford, a social worker from Essex, is a third Democratic contender who formerly worked in Washington for Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.

Other ways in which the candidates might make history. Balint would be the first openly homosexual person to represent Vermont in Congress if elected. At the same time, Chase Clifford would be the state’s first person of colour.

The Republican candidates have registered to run with those who campaigned unsuccessfully for state Senate in 2020 and Anya Tynio, who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House in 2018.

Liam Madden, an independent from Brattleboro who says he would compete in the GOP primary, and Louis Meyers, a physician from South Burlington, are also running for the House seat. Neither has claimed having raised any funds.

While this fall’s election is expected to smash Vermont’s glass barrier, more opportunities will likely arise in the coming years.

Sanders, an independent, is running for reelection in 2024. Welch is 75 years old.

Haney stated that she would want to see women hold all of Vermont’s top elected offices.

“Throughout history, we have normalized male leadership. And we’re so used to seeing only guys in authority that we say, ‘Oh, that’s good,'” she explained. “There’s nothing wrong with all women in power, and that’s what I want to see.”

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