“The result of this election will determine control of the Senate and with it, what we can accomplish for Vermont families,” Welch said in a statement. “If Vermonters elect me to the U.S. Senate, I will be ready to fight for progressive change on day one.”
As Vermont’s at-large congressman, Welch has represented the entire state in the House since he was first elected in 2006. He won an eighth term in 2020 by 40 percentage points, winning 67 percent of the vote. Welch serves as a chief deputy whip for the Democratic Caucus and is a member of the Progressive Caucus.
Welch was quickly endorsed by Vermont's other liberal senator, independent Bernie Sanders, which could help discourage a primary challenge from the left.
"@WelchForVT understands that now is the time to think big, not small," Sanders tweeted Monday morning. "Peter has the knowledge and experience to fight for a government that works for all, not just the wealthy few."
Welch is the seventh House Democrat to launch a bid for another office next year, and the fourth to launch a bid for the Senate.
Leahy, the longest-serving sitting senator who has spent nearly five decades in Congress, said last week he would retire after this term.
The Green Mountain State has been reliably Democratic in recent election cycles. President Joe Biden won Vermont by 36 points last year. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the Vermont Senate race Solid Democratic.
After Leahy announced his retirement, Democrats expressed confidence they would maintain control of his Senate seat.
"Vermont is a blue state that has not elected a Republican to statewide federal office in more than 20 years, and Democrats look forward to winning this Senate seat in 2022,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Gary Peters said last week.
Some Republicans believe GOP Gov. Phil Scott could put the state in play if he decides to jump into the race. But Scott, who won a third term last year by 41 points, has not indicated he wants to run.
“Governor Scott has been clear that he is not running for the U.S. Senate next year. That has not changed,” spokesman Jason Maulucci wrote in an email last week to The Associated Press.