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Monday, Mar 27, 2023

Vermont elects Welch, Balint while vote tallying continues for key national races

Middlebury voters cast their ballots at the Recreation Center.
Middlebury voters cast their ballots at the Recreation Center.

Vermont elected Democrat Peter Welch to the Senate with 66.8% of the vote and Democrat Becca Balint to the House of Representatives with 60.1% of the vote on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8. Vermont also re-elected Republican Governor Phil Scott, defeating Democrat Brenda Siegel, with approximately 68.9% of the vote, as reported by the Vermont Secretary of State

Rep. Peter Welch, defeating Republican Gerard Malloy, will fill Sen. Patrick Leahy’s seat after he announced his retirement last November. State Sen. Balint, defeating Republican candidate Liam Madden and Libertarian candidate Ericka Redic, will fill the House seat Welch vacated to run for Senate, and become both the first woman elected to Congress from Vermont — ending Vermont’s streak as the only state to have never sent a woman to Congress — and the state’s first openly LGBTQ+ member of Congress. 

Vermont voters also passed ballot measures Proposal 5 with approximately 72.4% voting in favor, which adds the right to reproductive autonomy to the state constitution, and Proposal 2 — with approximately 81.5% voting in favor, 10.4% voting against and 8.0% blank votes — which repeals outdated language currently in the state constitution that allows slavery and indentured servitude, according to the Vermont Secretary of State.

As of press time on Wednesday afternoon, key races in other states likely to determine control of both chambers of Congress were still undecided. At 4 p.m. on Nov. 9, The Associated Press had called 48 Senate seats and 177 House seats for Democrats and 48 Senate seats and 206 House seats for Republicans. 

Vermont saw a historic number of candidates up for election in open seats in the state government this year. Voters elected David Zuckerman of both the Progressive and Democratic parties to return as lieutenant governor with approximately 51.3% of the vote, defeating Republican Joe Benning, who received approximately 40.6% of the vote, as reported by the Secretary of State’s Office.

Vermonters also re-elected Democrat Mike Pieciak over Republican candidate H. Brooke Paige to become State Treasurer. Paige also ran for Secretary of State and was defeated by Democrat Sarah Copeland Hanzas, who will replace outgoing Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos. Democrat Dough Hoffer defeated Richard Morton in the race for Auditor of Accounts, and Democrat Charity Clark defeated Republican Michael Tagliavia in the race for Vermont Attorney General.

In Addison County, incumbent Democrats Christopher Bray and Ruth Hardy seemed poised to remain in their state Senate seats with all 25 towns reporting results by Wednesday morning. Middlebury also re-elected Democrats Amy Sheldon and Robin Scheu to the Vermont House of Representatives for the Addison-1 district. Addison also seemed likely to elect Pam Marsh as Probate Judge, Patricia Ross and Nicole Wilkerson as Assistant Judge, Eva P. Vekos as State’s Attorney, Michael R. Elmore as Sheriff and Dave Silberman as High Bailiff.

Burlington also voted in favor of a $165 million bond to construct a new high school.

MiddVotes hosted a watch party with commentary from Professor of Political Science Bert Johnson in Crossroads Cafe on Tuesday night, beginning at 7 p.m. CNN coverage played on the big screen, while Johnson occasionally interjected with contextualizing information and analysis of races. The event ran until 10:30 p.m., when most Vermont races were settled, but several key national races remained undecided.

Johnson began with a preview of the races that were at stake, noting that control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate was up for grabs that evening. However, he also pointed to the thousands of state-level elections for seats in state legislatures, courts and other positions that are important on many local issues. 

“There are all 435 House seats up for election today in the U.S. House of Representatives, there are 36 governor's races, there are 35 senate seats, there are 6,278 state legislators being elected today, and going into the election, 52% of state legislative seats were held by Republicans,” Johnson told the crowd to open the night.

Johnson noted that as a midterm election with a Democratic president in the White House, Democrats were expected to lose seats in Congress as the president’s party has done — with only two exceptions — in every midterm since 1945. Which party would emerge from election night with control of the Senate was more uncertain.

He also warned against drawing conclusions from early exit poll reports.

The Associated Press called Vermont’s Senate election for Welch later in the night, to the cheers of students gathered in Crossroads. 

“Peter Welch has won, moving from the House to the Senate,” Johnson said. “Gerald Malloy, of the very catchy slogan ‘deploy Malloy,’ has not been deployed to the Senate.”

By the end of the night, Democrats still seemed likely to lose control of the House of Representatives, while the Senate remained a toss-up. The Associated Press called Senate races for Democrats John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, Michael Bennet of Colorado and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, and called races for Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Budd of North Carolina, J.D. Vance of Ohio and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. As of Wednesday afternoon, votes in key Senate races were still being counted in Arizona between Democrat Mark Kelly and Republican Blake Masters and in Nevada between Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto and Republican Adam Laxalt. CNN projected Wednesday afternoon that in the Georgia race, between Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker, neither candidate will meet the 50% minimum threshold of the vote. The race will head to a run-off election on Dec. 6, leaving the balance of the Senate undecided for several more weeks.

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Tony Sjodin

Tony Sjodin ’23 is a managing editor. 

He previously served as community council correspondent, senior writer, news editor and senior news editor.  

Sjodin is majoring in political science with a focus on international and comparative politics. He previously held internships with the Appalachian Mountain Club's Outdoor Magazine, political campaigns in Massachusetts and Vermont, and the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica's Environmental Hub. Outside of class, he leads kayaking and hiking trips with the Middlebury Mountain Club.