Welch announces House run

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(Host) Senate president Peter Welch wants to be Vermont’s next U.S. Congressman. Welch announced his plans to seek the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House at the Statehouse Tuesday afternoon.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Welch made his announcement under the shade of a large tree just outside the Statehouse.

The Windsor County senator was flanked by many of the top officials of the Democratic Party including three former governors; Tom Salmon, Phil Hoff and Madeleine Kunin.

Welch says he expects the race will be a referendum on what he calls the failed policies of the Bush Administration and the Republican leadership in Congress – issues such as the war in Iraq, the environment and the growing budget deficit.

(Welch) “I’m running for Congress because I want to help turn the direction of the country around, so Vermonters can work to fulfill their dreams without feeling like they’re led by a White House that is out of touch out of ideas and after the next election, my fervent hope is out of power.”

(Kinzel) Welch says the very first vote that the state’s new member of Congress casts may well be the most important – the vote for House Speaker.

(Welch) “That representative will not be able to vote, maybe won’t be able to duck and mumble about being a mainstream republican in Vermont. Because let me tell you the truth which we all know. In Washington Tom DeLay is a mainstream Republican.”

(Kinzel) Former Senate president Peter Shumlin says he’ll also seek the Democratic nomination. At the Welch rally, former governor Hoff urged Shumlin to stay out of this race.

(Hoff) “I think it’s essential that we get behind one man – the man who just spoke, and support him with the thought that others while well qualified in many ways, ought to bow to this particular leadership.”

(Kinzel) Shumlin says he expects to formally announce his candidacy in the late fall. And he says he’s not discouraged by the number of party leaders who are endorsing Welch.

(Shumlin) “We’ve never had a government that is as removed from Vermont values as the government currently in power in Washington. And the Democrats need to nominate a candidate who will take them on. And I believe that I’m capable of doing that.”

(Kinzel) Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis says he’ll be surprised if Shumlin stays in this race to the end.

(Davis) “I think former senator Shumlin will come under pressure both from party officials and perhaps even from some of his financial supporters, and people who’ve been supporters of his previous campaigns. Senator Welch can line up a lot of these key people in the Democratic party early. Shumlin may find that he has difficulty putting together an organization and raising money.”

(Kinzel) Possible Republican candidates for this race include Lt. Governor Brian Dubie and Vermont National Guard General Martha Rainville.

There’s a lot of interest in this contest because incumbent Congressman Bernie Sanders is running for the U.S. Senate.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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