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Senator Patrick Leahy announces he will not run for re-election

Standing in the same room where he first announced a run for Senate nearly 50 years ago, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy said Monday that he will retire at the end of his term.

Standing in the same room where he first announced a run for Senate nearly 50 years ago, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy said Monday that he will retire at the end of his term.

The 81-year-old Dean of the Senate and Senate pro Tem is third in line to the presidency. Speculation had been growing for months about whether he would seek a record ninth term.

At the State House in Montpelier, the eight-term Senator delivered a speech outlining his accomplishments and what he has brought back to the state over his long career. Leahy said he is proud to be Vermont’s longest serving senator, but it’s time to move on.

“I know I have been there for my state when I was needed most. I have brought Vermont’s voice to the United States Senate and Vermont’s values across the world. So yes, I am proud to be Vermont’s longest serving Senator," declared Leahy. "And while I will continue to serve Vermont, Marcelle and I have reached the conclusion that it is time to put down the gavel. It is time to pass the torch to the next Vermonter who will carry on this work for our great state. It’s time to come home.”

Leahy plans to address his fellow Senators about his decision on Tuesday morning. But he wanted to first inform Vermonters about his decision.

“When I return to the Senate I will tell them how humbled I am by the support I received from my fellow Vermonters. I’ll tell them having been on the ballot in Vermont 24 times how proud I was to see my name on that ballot. But I will tell my fellow senators I will not be on the ballot next year. I will not run for reelection. But I wanted to announce that here at home just a few yards from where I grew up in Montpelier," said Senator Leahy. "Representing you in Washington has been the greatest honor. I am humbled and always will be by your support. I am confident in what the future holds and Marcelle and I will pray for that future. Thank you all very much.”

In Bennington Monday morning, Vermont Governor Phil Scott, a Republican, said he had spoken with the senator Sunday evening and has mixed emotions about Leahy’s decision.

Eric Davis
An interview with Professor Emeritus Eric Davis of Middlebury College on Leahy's retirement.

“On the one hand we’re going to lose an incredible leader, a powerful voice for Vermont as a result," Scott said. "But he and Marcelle deserve a retirement. He spent his whole public life fighting for Vermont and it’s about time he gets to enjoy some of it as well.”

Former Vermont House Representative and former Burlington City Councilor Republican Kurt Wright says the announcement by Leahy triggers a major change in the state’s politics.

“It’s shocking in a way because he’s been there so long. And let’s face it everybody respects Senator Leahy and what he’s brought home to the state of Vermont," Wright said. "And it’s a huge change in the political landscape in the state of Vermont.”

Leahy has served as chair or ranking member of the Senate Agriculture, Judiciary and Appropriations committees. He has twice served as Senate Pro Tem including this term.

He has brought billions of federal dollars to Vermont over his more than four decades in the Senate.

Governor Scott told WAMC that he is not thinking about running for Congress.

It is widely expected that Vermont’s at-large Congressman, Democrat Peter Welch, will run for the open seat. Welch, in a statement, called Leahy’s retirement “bittersweet” but didn’t mention his own 2022 plans.

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