Leahy, Welch cruising to victory

BURLINGTON — Two of the three members of Vermont’s congressional delegation who were seeking re-election cruised to victory Tuesday and will return to Washington, D.C., in January.

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, 76, the longest-serving member of the Senate, handily defeated Republican challenger Scott Milne. The Associated Press announced Leahy as the projected winner at 6:59 p.m., one minute before the polls closed in Vermont.

With just 34 of 276 voting districts reporting results to the AP, Leahy led Milne by a 57 percent to 38 percent margin.

Sen. Patrick Leahy embraces his wife, Marcelle, after winning an eighth term in the U.S. Senate. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

Sen. Patrick Leahy embraces his wife, Marcelle, after winning an eighth term in the U.S. Senate. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

Leahy’s win gives him an eighth term in the Senate, making him just the fifth person in U.S. history to be elected to eight, six-year terms.

“I’m here because you’ve honored me with six more years in the Senate,” Leahy told supporters at the Burlington Hilton where the Vermont Democratic Party held its election night event. “I’ll never stop working for Vermont. I’ll never stop being so gratified and so honored in the trust you’ve instilled.”

Leahy, who took the stage to the Grateful Dead’s “Truckin’” and quoted the band during his remarks.

“It has been a long strange trip, to quote Jerry Garcia,” he said.

Milne, the travel agency owner who nearly toppled Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin in the 2014 gubernatorial election, never gained traction in his even more ambitious race against Leahy. Milne’s campaign, waged mostly through news releases attacking Leahy’s long tenure in office, was just as untraditional as his gubernatorial bid two years ago.

Milne reported spending just over $54,000. Leahy, meanwhile, had raised more than $3.4 million for his campaign, much of which he was able to keep in his campaign coffers.

Leahy said he hopes his re-election to the Senate, along with other Democrats across the country, will force Republicans to vote on a ninth Supreme Court justice.

“I hope the nation will send a very strong signal to the Republican leadership in Washington, ‘You cannot keep a seat on the Supreme Court … vacant against the Constitution. Do your job,’” he said. “We’re leading the way. We’ve rejected the bigotry, sexism and anger of Donald Trump.”

Rep. Peter Welch address supporters after winning his re-election bid. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

Rep. Peter Welch address supporters after winning his re-election bid. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

Democratic Rep. Peter Welch appeared poised to win his race by an even wider margin than Leahy. Welch, first elected in 2006, faced Liberty Union candidate Erica Clawson. With 34 voting districts reporting, Welch led Clawson by an 89 percent to 11 percent margin.

Welch addressed supporters just before 8 p.m. Tuesday night to claim victory.

“I’m going to be fighting for you in the House of Representatives to make sure your voice is heard, you message is heard,” Welch told supporters at the Vermont Democratic Party’s election night party. “You worked so hard — So many people in this room, so many people in this state— you worked so hard so that so many of our candidates could win.”

Welch said he and other Democrats plan to “go to work tomorrow and make America a better place and revive our democracy.”

Vermont’s third member of Congress, Sen. Bernie Sanders, is not up for re-election until 2018.

neal.goswami@timesargus.com

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