Becca Balint, left, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House for Vermont, stands with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., center, and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., on Oct. 22, 2022, at a campaign rally in Barre, Vt. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke)

By LISA RATHKE Associated Press

Voters were deciding who would fill Vermont’s only seat in the U.S. House, a rare opening in the state’s three-member Congressional delegation.

The Democratic candidate, Becca Balint, would be the first woman and first openly gay person to represent the deep-blue state in Congress if elected.

Balint, president of the Vermont state Senate and a former middle school teacher, faces the other major party candidate Liam Madden, an independent who won the Republican primary. Three independents and one libertarian candidate were also in the race.

Madden, 38, is a Marine Corps veteran and anti-war activist who says the two-party political system is dysfunctional, and more and better civic engagement is needed to address the country’s challenges.

The House seat came open after U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, announced last November that he would not seek reelection this year, and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch ran for Leahy’s seat.

While Vermont is often considered one of the more liberal states in the country, with a higher-than-average percentage of women serving in the state Legislature, it recently became the only state to have never sent a woman to Congress.

In the Democratic primary, Balint beat Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, a more centrist candidate who was supported by the state’s Democratic establishment, including Leahy and former governors Howard Dean and Madeleine Kunin. Balint gained support from the progressive wing of the party, including from independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders .

The 54-year-old from Brattleboro has served four two-year terms in the Vermont Senate, including as majority leader from 2017 to 2020. She was elected Senate president in 2021, becoming the first woman and first openly gay person in that role.

Balint says she learned the skill of deep listening as a teacher, and will take it to Washington to try to find common ground at a time when she says democracy is at stake and election deniers are on the ballot in other states. She wants to protect voter rights, and says she’s concerned about the U.S. Supreme Court and what she calls its lack of transparency. She would like to see term limits for that court and for federal judges, as well as for members of Congress.

She also hopes her campaign will inspire more young people and people from diverse backgrounds to run for office, “whether they’re LGBTQ young people, people of color, people who come from working class backgrounds who never imagined that they could run for office.”

—-

Follow AP’s coverage of the elections at: https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press (AP) is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting.