Politics

Sen. Patrick Leahy, the longest-serving Democrat in the Senate, to retire following term

On Monday, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, 81, announced at the state capitol in Montpelier that he will not be seeking a ninth term. Leahy is currently the president pro tempore of the Senate and the longest-serving Democrat and member in the chamber.

“It is time to put down the gavel. It is time to pass the torch to the next Vermonter, who will carry on this work for our great state,” Leahy said in front of a seated crowd. “It is time to come home.” Earlier this year, the senator indicated that he might run for reelection, but his age as well as a January hospitalization led to increased speculation that he would retire when his current term comes to a close.

Leahy was first elected in the post-Watergate midterms in 1974 after he served as Chittenden County state’s attorney. His time in the Senate spanned eight presidents and leaves him, for the time being, the only Democrat ever elected to the Senate from the state of Vermont.

Despite the GOP’s momentum in several blue states as the midterm elections are less than one year out, Leahy’s retirement likely will not have an effect on the 2022 Senate election calculus. President Joe Biden claimed victory in Vermont by a wider margin than in any other state in the 2020 election, and he defeated Donald Trump in the state by 35 percentage points.

A Republican has not been elected to the Senate since Jim Jeffords in 1988. Jeffords later became an independent and started caucusing with Democrats. The state’s Republican Gov. Phil Scott appeared to be a candidate for the open Senate seat, but said earlier this year that he is not interested in running for the office.

Justin Barasky, Democratic strategist and former senior adviser at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, does not think Leahy’s retirement will change the state’s party leaning. “This is a blue state,” Barasky said. “This in no way changes the trajectory of the Senate map, unlike the retirements on the Republican side in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio and otherwise.” Leahy’s announcement well set up the first open Senate election in the state since 2006.

ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: THE WEEK

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