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Vermont Senate President launches bid for Congress

Vermont Senate Pro Tem Becca Balint
Vermont Legislature
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Vermont Senate Pro Tem Becca Balint

The first woman and first openly gay person to serve as the president of the Vermont state Senate is running for Congress.

Democratic Senator Becca Balint announced her candidacy today, joining Democratic Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray in running to replace Congressman Peter Welch.

Balint released a campaign video on social media.

Welch is seeking the U.S. Senate seat that will become open when Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy retires after eight terms.

Why do you want to be in Congress?

You know, we are facing really enormous challenges right now both as a state and as a nation. And I've seen in my time in the Senate, we've got working families that are struggling, we've got the pandemic that’s still raging on. And you know, frankly, our democracy is at risk. And what I've come to realize is, we cannot tackle these challenges if we continue to remain divided in demonizing each other. I have really great role models in our congressional delegation. And I want to be a true progressive champion in Washington. Leaders, like them, who will fight for the people back home. And I believe that in order to stand up for working people, we need to bring some everyday courage to the job. And that's what I've done my whole life as a teacher, as a mom, as a as a community member, and as a senator. And, you know, I'm committed to a bold progressive agenda, Medicare for all, progressive climate policies, like the Green New Deal, childcare, paid family leave housing and criminal justice reform, you know, policies that acknowledge and stand with working people. And that's, that's what I hope to do.

Based on some of the policies you've just outlined, is it fair to say that if you were elected to Congress, you would be a member of the Progressive Caucus of the Democratic Party?

Yeah, like, like Senator Sanders, and like Congressman Welch, I certainly see myself as a progressive Democrat, and really hoping that I can champion those policies and also support this president, I want this president to succeed. And I want Vermonters to succeed. And the Build Back Better agenda is something that really supports working families. So I'm hoping to be a unifying force within the party as well, because I feel like we need all hands on deck. And the Progressive Caucus is a big one. And I feel like I'm going to have a really important and strong role to play there.

Is Vermont ready to send a woman to Washington for the first time?

I believe we are. And I, I hope to be that to be that candidate that that brings people together, that, you know, really is able to capture the imagination of Vermonters and build a grassroots movement to get me there. But yes, I think Vermont is ready.

What differentiates you from Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray, who is also running. Presumably the two of you, and maybe some others, will be in the Democratic primary next year.

So, you know, let me tell you why I'm running, OK. We have got to be a voice for people who have often been ignored. And we've got to deliver on good progressive policies. And I have a strong track record in the Senate of passing important legislation. I have a strong background as a teacher, and as a parent who is deeply tied to my community, who is a strong defender of justice and equality. And I am going to be a strong defender of democracy without demonizing and dehumanizing others and, and I believe that I can hold the hopes and aspirations of Vermonters while also pushing hard for specific policy policies in D.C. So I'm really focused on really focused on my race, I'm really focused on building a grassroots movement. And I'm sure other folks will jump in the race. But I'm really focused on my campaign, which is going to be voter by voter, town by town.

Let me ask you this: Vermont compared to many other places in the U.S., it functions. Its government has a  ecessary bipartisanship to a certain degree. You've got a Republican governor, you two don't always see eye to eye, but you're talking to each other. Washington is much different — I have that right, right? So why trade that? You've got a decent amount of power in the Senate in Vermont.

You know, for me, it's, it's never been about me as a leader. It's about my core values. And, you know, I've really been shaped by my family history. And I feel like my leadership is grounded in that family history. And so, you know, having watched my family continue to struggle with what happened to my grandparents in the Holocaust, it really shaped me, it taught me and my siblings that we need to be community minded. And if we don't listen to each other, you know, if we don't, we don't stamp out hatred when we see it, and if we turn away from each other, then innocent people pay the price. And so that's what's driven me my whole life, as a teacher, as a parent, as a state Senator. And so for me, it's not about trading. One, no situation that may be more powerful to another when I will be one of many. It's really about living my values, and stepping fully into believing that we're at a critical point in our democracy and we need to we need to shore up this democracy if we're going to survive.

Congressman Peter Welch was on our station earlier today, and he said he'd be planning to stay neutral in the primary, at least to this point, but have you had any conversations with him about your candidacy and any advice that he gave you?

You know, Peter Welch has been a big supporter of mine throughout my career in the Senate. He also served as pro tem here in the Vermont State Senate, and he was actually the one who encouraged me to run for majority leader, and then to run for pro tem. And so we actually talked frequently, and he has been someone who I've turned to for guidance around the job of being pro tem. And he was one of the first people that I confided in that I was thinking seriously about running for Congress. And he's always been a wonderful sounding board for me and someone that I look to for wisdom and guidance. And I hope that continues no matter what happens in this race.

What's your relationship like with Senator Sanders?

Oh, I have a good relationship with both our senators and I see parts of my myself in the way that they conduct themselves. And I'm so honored to be thinking about serving alongside Senator Sanders and hopefully, Congressman Welch in his run for Senate, and I have strong relationships with all three of the men in the delegation and will certainly continue to use all that I've learned from watching them over the years in in this primary and hopefully in the fight ahead in D.C. for months.

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