Vt GOP looks for candidate to challenge Welch

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(Host) The head of the Vermont Republican Party says he hopes a candidate will emerge in the next few weeks to challenge incumbent Democratic Congressman Peter Welch.

But GOP Director Rob Roper says Welch’s strong fundraising base is making it difficult to find a candidate to enter the race.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) For months, there’s been a lot of speculation if the Democrats were going to find a candidate to run against Governor Jim Douglas. The answer to that question now appears to yes – next week House Speaker Gaye Symington is set to announce that she will be a candidate for governor.

But with 6 months to go before the general election, the Republicans have yet to find a candidate to run against first term Democratic Congressman Peter Welch.

GOP party chairman Rob Roper says he hopes to find a candidate in the near future:

(Roper) "Well ASAP is what we’re looking at time’s coming out we do have some people who are interested in the race but it’s a question of getting them to sign on the dotted line and commit and we hope that’s going to happen sooner rather than later."

Welch has roughly 900,000 dollars in his campaign account. Roper says this reality is scaring away some potential candidates:

(Roper) "He’s played the Washington game and he’s built up about a million dollar war chest and certainly that’s something that you have to be concerned about if you’re going to be his opponent and it is it does scare some good people away which is too bad."

Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis thinks there are two strong reasons why the GOP is having a hard time finding a challenger to Welch:

(Davis) "I would say it was a combination of Congressman Welch having been seen to do a good job in his first term plus he has an overwhelming fund raising advantage over any potential challenger."

Two years ago, Vermont’s sole seat in the U.S. House was a key priority for national Democrats and Republicans. Davis says that’s not the case this year:

(Davis) "I believe the state Republican Party doesn’t consider the U.S. House race as one of their top priorities for this year I would say their top priority is to re-elect Governor Douglas to re-elect Lt. Governor Dubie and to try and gain a few seats in the Vermont Legislature especially the House."

Republican officials say they hope one of their potential candidates will make a decision to run by the end of the month.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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