Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) speaks at an event on Wednesday Oct. 5, 2022, in Winooski, Vt. Welch is facing Republican Gerald Malloy in the general election, for the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Patrick Leah. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring, File)

By WILSON RING Associated Press

Vermont voters were choosing a successor to Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, whose 48-year tenure made him the longest-serving member in the current U.S. Senate.

Democratic Rep. Peter Welch, who has served in the House of Representatives for nearly 16 years, faced off for the seat against Gerald Malloy, a political newcomer endorsed by former President Donald Trump. Malloy defeated a more mainstream Republican in the primary.

In a year in which the parties are grappling for control of the Senate, Democrats were confident they could keep the seat in the deep blue state.

Before the election, the liberal Welch, 75, faced some criticism for giving up his years of seniority in the House to start over in the Senate, leaving tiny Vermont with two freshmen in its three-member congressional delegation. (The third, Sen. Bernie Sanders, is not up for re-election this year.)

But Welch said his experience is needed in the Senate now, when he feels the foundation of American democracy is under threat.

During his campaign, he touted his ability in the House to work across the aisle and seek common ground with Republican colleagues in a period of hyper-partisanship.

Leahy, 82, was the last of the so-called Watergate babies elected after the resignation of former President Richard Nixon.

Welch was born in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont in 1974, where he first worked as a public defender. He was a longtime member of the Vermont Senate, and was its first Democratic Senate president pro tempore. In 2006, he won the U.S. House seat, which became vacant when Sanders moved to the Senate.

Malloy calls himself a traditional pro-life conservative who wants to reduce the size of government and the national debt, and crack down on illegal immigration. Unlike many conservatives, he does not contest that President Joe Biden fairly won the 2020 election.

Malloy also grew up in Massachusetts, and moved to Vermont in 2020. He is a West Point graduate and Gulf War veteran, and worked in emergency operations in New England and in business management positions.

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The Associated Press

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