BRATTLEBORO — In one of the least surprising results of Tuesday’s primary elections, Vermont voters chose Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch to replace retiring Senator Patrick Leahy, who has held the seat since 1975 and was the last of Congress’s so-called Watergate babies. Welch’s decision to run for the Senate seat opened up his seat in the House, the first time since 2006 that there have been any openings in Vermont’s three-member congressional delegation.
Welch easily defeated two little-known candidates, including Brattleboro-based Isaac Evans-Frantz, to move on to the general election in November. During his years in Congress, Welch has been one of Vermont’s top vote-getters and would be an odds-on favorite to win the general election.
Welch will face retired U.S. Army officer Gerald Malloy, who defeated former U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan in Tuesday’s Republican primary for the Senate seat. Malloy says he believes he can win in November, although no Republican has represented the state in Washington since 2001 when the late Sen. Jim Jeffords left the GOP to become an independent, switching control of the Senate from Republican to Democratic.
Incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Scott also cruised to his party’s primary victory, defeating two candidates as he sought a fourth term. The lone candidate for the Democratic nomination is activist Brenda Siegel, of Newfane. Last fall she spent 27 nights sleeping on the steps of the Vermont Statehouse to highlight the state’s homelessness challenge.
“I feel good,” said Isaac Evans-Frantz, the Brattleboro-based Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. “We started from zero, and the person we were challenging started this campaign with a couple of million dollars in the bank.”
Isaac Evans-Frantz received 7,218 votes, or 7.3 percent, during the primary. Welch received 86,478 votes, 87.4 percent.
“It’s the story of the American political system where so much is based on corporate cash, but we can show that we can get votes for people who refuse to take that corporate cash,” Evans-Frantz said. “We can stand with courage and integrity and stand up for what’s right.”
Isaac Evans-Frantz acknowledged himself as the underdog in the race. Although Evans-Frantz was born and raised on the dirt roads of West Brattleboro, the thought of avoiding competition did not cross his mind.
“There was no elected official who decided to enter this race besides the congressman. I think there was a sense of defeat before we tried, and I always believe that it’s important to try things even if they’re really hard,” said Evans-Frantz. “It’s really important that we try, and that if we keep trying, and we and we work together, and we support each other; eventually we will win.”
“I’m extremely proud of the team that’s come together. I’m proud of every single Vermonter who had the courage to vote for somebody who is unlikely to win. I have so much pride in the state that I’m from, in the people of this state, in the belief in a better world, in a better system, and a vision for the future for the next generation.”
When thinking about the future, Evans-Frantz made it clear that the will of the small towner will not be deterred.
“Listen, I have a tendency that when I start something, I like to see it through, and we’ll see what the future brings, but I am committed to the work of bringing the voices of people who have not been heard to Washington. That’s what I’ve been doing, and that’s what I’ll continue to do, regardless of the title, regardless of the seat that I might hold. That’s my commitment to everybody.”
“Now we know more people, we’ve built relationships, and we’re in even a stronger position to continue that work for peace and social justice.”
In the race for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, former Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman won with 42 percent of the vote, defeating state Rep. Kitty Toll, who received 37 percent. Afterwards, Zuckerman issued this statement:
“I am honored and humbled to have been chosen by so many of my fellow Vermonters to be the Democratic nominee. I would like to thank my competitors in this race. I enjoyed getting to know them better and appreciate that we were all able to treat each other with respect and dignity.
"As we move forward toward the general election, I look forward to continued robust discussions with Vermonters from all over about the future of our state and how we each would work to improve folks day to day situations.
"Vermonters are struggling. Making ends meet has become a major challenge, along with the challenges of finding housing, paying for childcare and healthcare and so many other economic pressures. Small businesses and farms are struggling to survive. Rural Vermont faces many unique problems. The effects of climate change are here now. We feel them on our farms, and in the weather challenges that affect our daily life."