No challenger yet for Peter Welch

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(Host) Nine months before Election Day, Congressman Peter Welch has a big bank account to pay for his re-election campaign – but no opponent.

Republicans say they expect to have a candidate to challenge Welch, although they concede he has a formidable head start on fund-raising and name recognition.

VPR’s Ross Sneyd has our story.

(Sneyd) Democrats have gotten a lot of unwanted attention as they’ve searched for a candidate to run for governor against incumbent Jim Douglas, the state’s top Republican.

Republicans are also searching for a candidate. They’ve got no one, at least not yet, to go up against Congressman Welch.

Middlebury College political scientist Eric Davis says the Republicans are facing reality.

(Davis) “I expect they’ll have a name on the ballot. I don’t think they’ll allow Peter Welch to be re-elected simply by default. But clearly this race is not the Republicans’ high priority for next year. I think would say the Republicans’ highest priorities for 2008 are: First, getting Jim Douglas re-elected as governor; and, second, trying to cut in a little bit in the Democrats’ majorities in the Vermont Legislature.”

(Sneyd) Neither national party has “targeted” Vermont’s congressional race this year. Both did in 2006, meaning they thought it was competitive – and winnable.

Davis says the national parties wouldn’t ignore the Vermont race if they thought there were a strong Republican challenger emerging.

Welch is still preparing for a strong opponent. Federal Election Commission records show he’s already raised more than $700,000.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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