Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced Monday that he would not be seeking reelection for a ninth term in office. Leahy, 81, said he would retire at the end of his current term in January 2023.
Leahy is the Senate’s most senior member (a few months older than Vermont’s independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is 80) and Vermont’s longest-serving senator. He’s also president pro tempore of the Senate and chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations committee.
“While I will continue to serve Vermont, Marcelle and I have reached the conclusion that it is time to put down the gavel,” Leahy said in a speech Monday, referring to his wife, Marcelle Leahy. “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.”
Between campaigns state and federal office, Leahy said, he’d been on the ballot 24 times.
“I will not be on the ballot next year,” he said, adding: “Representing you in Washington has been the greatest honor. I’m humbled, and always will be, by your support. I’m confident in what the future holds, and Marcelle and I will pray for that future.”
Leahy was the first Democrat in Vermont’s history to be elected to the U.S. Senate. He was elected in 1974, three months after then-President Richard Nixon’s resignation over the Watergate scandal.
Though the state has a Republican governor, Phil Scott, it hasn’t been represented by a Republican in the U.S. Senate since Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) predecessor, Sen. Jim Jeffords, changed his party affiliation from Republican to Independent in 2001.
Leahy announced his first Senate candidacy in the same room in which he announced his retirement Monday, in the Vermont State House.
Sanders’ endorsement, in this case, could influence the field to succeed Leahy.
“If Bernie is going to endorse Peter there’s not much point doing it,” State Rep. Tanya Vyhovsky (D) told The Intercept recently, referring to a Senate run currently under consideration. (edited)