Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch easily defeated a little-known Republican challenger to win the Senate seat being vacated by Patrick Leahy, the longest-serving member of the upper chamber.

Welch, who was elected to the House in 2006 and won reelection with lopsided votes every two years since, defeated Republican Gerald Malloy, a retired U.S. Army officer endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

In a year in which the parties are grappling for control of the Senate, Welch’s election keeps the seat from the deep blue state safely in the Democratic column.

“While the votes are still being counted across the country and we’re unsure what the Senate will look like in January, we know that – whoever is in charge – the “Vermont way” is needed to find solutions to our shared problems,” Welch said in a statement. “It’s how Senator Patrick Leahy served us so well for 48 years, and it’s how I am committed to serve every day in the Senate.”

Before the election, the liberal Welch, 75, faced some criticism for giving up his years of seniority in the House to start over in the Senate, leaving tiny Vermont with two freshmen in its three-member congressional delegation. (The third, Sen. Bernie Sanders, is not up for re-election this year.)

During his campaign, Welch touted his ability in the House to work across the aisle and seek common ground with Republican colleagues in a period of hyper-partisanship.

Welch was born in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont in 1974, where he first worked as a public defender. He was a longtime member of the Vermont Senate, and was its first Democratic Senate president pro tempore. In 2006, he won the U.S. House seat, which became vacant when Sanders moved to the Senate.