Vermont Lt. Gov. Molly Gray announced Monday that she would seek the Democratic Party nomination to fill the U.S. House seat that will become vacant when U.S. Rep. Peter Welch runs for the U.S. Senate.
Gray, a Burlington lawyer who was born and raised on a farm in South Newbury, is seeking Vermont’s first open seat in the U.S. House since 2006 when now U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders left the House to run for the upper chamber.
She is the first candidate to announce campaign for Welch’s seat, after the Congressman said he would run to replace Sen. Patrick Leahy, who announced he would retire when after almost 50 years in the U.S. Senate. Gray would be the first woman elected to Congress from Vermont.
“We are at the end of one era with the retirement of Vermont Senator Leahy, and the beginning of a new era for Vermont where we have a lot of important questions to answer: What kind of leadership do we want,” said Gray.
Gray says she she wants to focus on the state’s housing crisis, the child care shortage, broadband expansion and the workforce.
“We’re going to need a fighter for Vermont in Washington. Someone who understands the needs of Pownal, the needs of Guilford, the needs of Swanton, the needs of Canaan. Understands the needs of every corner of our state,” said Gray.
Gray will likely face primary challenges from fellow Democrats, such as Sen. Kesha Ram and Sen. President Pro Tem Becca Balint.
Matt Dickinson, a professor of political science at Middlebury College, said there is no obvious frontrunner at this early stage, but plenty of speculation.
“There’s typically been a front runner, and there’s really not one this time around,” he said. “So this adds this sort of suspense about who is going to run. I suspect this will attract a lot of good candidates because it’s a rare opportunity.”
He predicts that no matter who runs, there will be pressure among Democrats to nominate to compete for Welch’s seat.