Democrat Becca Balint has won the race for Vermont’s sole US House seat, becoming the first woman and first openly gay person to be elected to Congress from the Green Mountain State.
Balint, 54, president of the Vermont Senate and a former teacher, took more than 60% of the vote over Republican Liam Madden, a 38-year-old Marine Corps veteran and anti-war activist.
While Vermont is a liberal state, with a higher-than-average percentage of women serving in the state Legislature, it’s the only state to have never sent a woman to Congress.
The rare opening in Vermont’s three-member congressional delegation occurred after U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, announced last November that he would not seek reelection this year. Welch is running for Leahy’s seat, opening up the state’s lone seat in the U.S. House.
In the Democratic primary, Balint beat Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, a more centrist candidate who was supported by the state’s Democratic establishment, including Leahy and former governors Howard Dean and Madeleine Kunin. Balint gained support from the progressive wing of the party, including independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Balint, of Brattleboro, was born in a U.S. Army hospital in Germany where her father was stationed, and she grew up mostly in upstate New York. She said she is the daughter of an immigrant, her father, and a working class mother, and the granddaughter of a man who died in the Holocaust.
She came to Vermont to be a rock-climbing instructor in 1994 and moved to the Green Mountain State permanently in 1997. She taught history and social studies in the rural communities of Londonderry, Marlboro, Guilford and Washington, as well as at the Community College of Vermont. She has a masters degree in education from Harvard University and a masters in history from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Balint said she wants to do “a really good job on behalf of all Vermonters,” and make sure they feel they can contact her easily and have an office “that’s working hard on their behalf.”
Balint, who has two children with her wife, an attorney, hopes her campaign will inspire more people to run for office, “whether they’re LGBTQ young people, people of color, people who come from working class backgrounds who never imagined that they could run for office.”
“I never thought I’d be where I am right now,” she said.