The Campaign Season Has Begun

Blog#93- 12/19/21
ByRichard Davis

When Senator Patrick Leahy announced his retirement recently he set off a political chain of events that marked the start of the campaign season. Leahy served almost 50 years in the Senate and he proved to be one of Vermont’s best political assets.

Rep. Peter Welch has served Vermont in Washington since 2007. He is the heir apparent to Leahy’s seat. There will be contenders for the office but it is clear that Welch will be the frontrunner and the person most prepared to represent Vermont in the Senate.

I worked with Welch when he was in the Vermont Senate and I have kept in touch with him over the years. I am generally harsh in my assessment of politicians but Welch is someone who has earned a high level of respect from a lot of people. He is straightforward and true to his principles. His word is his bond and he understands the need to improve this country’s social safety net when it comes to housing, health care and many other issues. And he is able to get things done in Washington.

Welch is prepared to carry on the legacy that Leahy has left but he will also be able to forge his own path in one of the most polarized political bodies in the world. He has proven that he can work both sides of the aisle in the House and I believe that he will be capable of being a force for some degree of consensus and unity in the Senate.

So that leads to a discussion of who is the best person to replace Welch in the U.S. House. It is a giant leap from being an elected official in Vermont and moving into a seat in Washington. Pundits are talking about the need to elect a woman to the office because no woman has ever represented Vermont in Washington. It is important to consider electing a woman but that is not the most important qualification for this office. We have to elect the best person for the job, no matter their gender. That is critical.

Lt. Governor Molly Gray and Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint have emerged as the leading candidates to replace Welch. They are both solid contenders for the office and either one would do a good job of representing Vermont in the House.

They are both Democrats. Gray served as assistant attorney general for Vermont from 2018 to 2021 and is now serving her first term as Vermont’s Lt. Governor. She has an impressive resume as posted on Wikipedia.

“While in college, she interned in the Burlington office of U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy. She was active in the successful 2006 U.S. House campaign of Peter Welch, then joined his staff after he took office in 2007. Gray subsequently worked on human rights issues for the International Committee of the Red Cross. After law school, she worked for the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers, an organization created to monitor the human rights compliance of private security contractors.”

Balint’s Wikipedia resume is less impressive than Gray’s. “She served as a town meeting representative and on the Development Review Board in Brattleboro. She was elected to the state senate alongside Jeanette White in 2014, becoming the first lesbian to serve in the state senate. Balint was selected to serve as the Majority Leader by the Democratic caucus in 2017, and as the President pro tempore in 2021. She is the first woman and LGBT person to serve as President pro tempore in Vermont.”

Although Balint is a worthy candidate for the U.S. I do not think she has the background to qualify for the office. She is doing a good job for Windham County in the Vermont Senate and she needs a broader base of experience to be able to fill the shoes of Peter Welch.

Comments | 4

  • On the other hand...

    If these are the two candidates, let me argue the other way for a bit in favor of electing Balint.

    Balint is local. When was the last time Windham County sent representative to Congress? It could be useful to have someone from southern Vermont at the national level.

    With Balint, I think you need to look beyond that resume from wikipedia. Resumes van be misleading. Gray interned for Leahy? Sound impressive! But almost anyone can intern in DC. My sister did it, and I would not recommend voting for her as a Congressperson.

    For me, Gray is an unknown. All I know is about her campaigns for office, and little of what she stands for. I’ve worked with Becca, very limited, but got to know a bit about how she thinks and works. And she’s done a better job, in my view, of letting us know what she stands for.

    Once elected, I’d gamble that Balint would return my call. I’m not so certain about Gray.

    Lots of time between now and an election. And others may still jump in…

  • Best Candidates

    As the campaigns go forward we will learn more about the candidates. That will be helpful. I agree that it may not be fair to use Wikipedia bio as a barometer of qualification. But on the other hand, I have tried to work with Balint on a couple of health care issues and she never got back to me after initial contact. It was very frustrating because the issue related to BMH and was somewhat time sensitive.

    • Thanks

      Good to know about the not getting back… local concerns would be one of the number one reasons to vote for someone local – if they are responsive.

      Looking forward to debates!

      I hear there is an odd out-of-state guy thinking about trying to Tarrant (ie, slide in…) for Leahy’s seat.

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