Welch defeats Rainville

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(Dillon) State Senator Peter Welch has defeated former adjutant General Martha Rainville by 53% to 44% of the vote.

The race for Vermont’s lone House seat was long, expensive, but surprisingly positive.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Supporters) “Peter! Peter! Peter!”

(Dillon) As his supporters cheered themselves hoarse, Peter Welch praised his opponent for engaging in a spirited debate on the issues.

(Welch) “We knew Vermonters demanded it, they wanted it. And once again Vermont is setting a standard of how political debate should occur on very tough issues.”

(Dillon) As he did in the campaign, Welch pledged to work in Washington to end the war in Iraq, and focus on economic issues affecting the middle class.

(Welch) “You know politics is about Vermonters, about what their hopes and aspirations are. And I got them involved in the debate about the future of our country. And I think they sent a clear message that they want a change in direction in Iraq and a change in direction on the trickle down policies and that they want to pursue policies that help middle income and working families.”

(Dillon) For Rainville, the challenge was to push against a rising tide of dissatisfaction with Republicans in Congress and the White House.

This was her first run for elected office, although she was well known to Vermonters for her service as head of the National Guard.

Rainville portrayed herself as independent, even though her campaign received more than $700,000 dollars from national Republicans.

She opened the race by pledging to run a positive, clean campaign. And the contest ended up being the only House race in the country that did not feature negative attack ads.

(Rainville) “We set a new standard for how political races that can be won. We can have races that focus on the issues, races that we can be proud to have our children involved in, and hopefully races that will encourage our young people to get involved in their community, to get involved in politics, to one day serve their state and their nation in the highest offices. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

(Dillon) Welch’s victory puts a Vermont Democrat in the US House for the first time since 1959. Since 1990, the seat has been filled by Bernie Sanders, an Independent.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Burlington.

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