Senate President Pro Temore and second-highest ranking Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced on Monday that he will retire next year and not seek re-election.
Leahy, 81, has served eight terms in the Senate and looks to “pass the torch” to someone else.
“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 said.
Leahy presided over former President Donald Trump’s impeachment last year.
Democrats expect to keep seat
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) released a statement Monday calling Leahy a “lion of the Senate.”
“Vermont is a blue state that has not elected a Republican to statewide federal office in more than 20 years, and Democrats look forward to winning this Senate seat in 2022,” chairman of the DSCC Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) said.
Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA) praised Leahy in a tweet upon hearing the news.
Sorry 2hear of Sen Leahy’s retirement He & I work together on so many major pieces of legislation False Claims Whistleblower protections EB5 Freedom of Information Act to name a few Pat, Marcelle, Barbara & I are gr8 friends For the Senate his leadership will b missed
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) November 15, 2021
The Democrat primary is expected to be competitive, with Rep. Peter Welch, state Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint, state Sen. Kesha Ram-Hinsdale and Lt. Gov. Molly Gray among the names that have been mentioned as contenders for Leahy’s seat.
No Republican has yet filed to run for Leahy’s seat.
Bernie Sanders endorsement could be key
The eventual Democrat candidate could rest largely on whether Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) endorses them. Sanders’ endorsement of Welch could be most at question.
No female has ever represented Vermont in the Senate.
Republican Sens. Ron Johnson (WI) and John Thune (SD) are the last remaining Senators up for re-election who have not announced their plans for 2022. So far, five Senate Republicans have announced retirements including Richard Burr (NC), Pat Toomey (PA), Rob Portman (OH), Richard Shelby (AL), and Roy Blunt (MO). Leahy is the only Democrat retiring, but Toomey’s seat is the only one that could probably turn blue among the Republicans.