Rep. Peter Welch leads field of 8 in US Senate race



In Vermont’s U.S. Senate race, Democrat Peter Welch is the only candidate of eight with any political experience. He runs on a solid legislative record following 13 years in the Vermont Senate, including being minority leader from 1983-85, and he has served in Congress for the past 15 years. He was elected as Vermont’s lone congressman in November 2006, following now-Sen. Bernie Sanders. Since 2011, he has served on the Energy and Commerce, Oversight and Government Reform, and Agriculture committees.

Welch was born in Springfield, Mass., earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of the Holy Cross and a juris doctor from the University of California at Berkeley. Welch’s career includes working as a practicing attorney. He is married to Margaret Cheney, and the couple’s home is in Norwich.

Republican Gerald Malloy is the only other of the six challengers who has an active campaign. Malloy is a Massachusetts transplant who moved to Vermont in 2020, is an avowed Trump supporter and says he supports the Jan. 6, 2021, riot on the Capitol, even though he claims not to be an election-denier. 

He represents many perspectives of the national Republican Party, including avid support for ex-president Trump, championing tax reductions for the wealthy, but rejecting Medicare for All and the Affordable Care Act as programs that contribute to the national debt. 

Even though the race has drawn little statewide attention, Malloy, at least, has been campaigning and has articulated a platform based on conservative ideology.


The other candidates are: Natasha Diamondstone-Kohout, representing the Green Mountain Party; and five Independents — Dawn Marie Ellis, Mark Coester, Ms. Cris Ericson, Stephen Duke and Kerry Patrick Raheb. In a question-answer platform provided by VtDigger, none of those five candidates took the time to answer the basic questions that would provide an inkling of their political perspectives or policy platforms, nor did they provide biographies. 

Only Kerry Patrick Raheb of Shelburne outlined a rough platform in his biography, which suggests he would: 

• fight for term limits to put an end to the “career politician;” 

• reject promoting green energy, maintaining that the nation needs to become “energy independent” and advocated for more drilling of oil and gas and the construction of more pipelines. “We need to approve, not cancel, permits (for oil and gas projects),” he said. 

• support more restrictive voter ID laws, hinting he was against mail-in ballots so that the country would return to voting on a single “Election Day,” which he said should be a national holiday. 

• vote to stop illegal immigration and secure the nation’s borders, but didn’t say how or advocate for specific ideas; 

• vote to “stop the unconstitutional federal mask and vaccine mandates;” 

• support the 2nd Amendment rights to bear arms, without saying anything about limits. 

On other issues, he supports the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade, criticizes the high cost of childcare (but doesn’t offer any solutions), and would reduce the size of government. His concluding statement, of course, has God blessing America.

In short, the race to fill the seat long occupied by retiring U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy will be against Democrat Peter Welch and Republican Gerald Malloy.

In previous weeks, VtDigger posed eight yes-or-no questions to all candidates, as well as eight in-depth questions on specific topics. The responses from Welch and Malloy (again, the other candidates didn’t answer them) follow:


In answering yes-or-no to eight questions, Welch answered “yes” to: 

• supporting a comprehensive national health care program, commonly known as Medicare for All; 

• strengthening federal voting rights protections, including those described in the John Lewis Voting Rights Act;

• federal legalization of marijuana; 

• having the federal government continue to fund free testing, vaccination and treatment for COVID-19; 

• raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans; and 

• continuing the operation of F-35 fighter jets out of South Burlington. 

He responded “no” to: 

• whether members of Congress should be subject to term limits, and whether Congress should repeal the Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare). Obamacare, ennacted in 2010, has significantly reduced medical expenses for millions of Americans, allowed children to remain on their parent’s family plans until they were 26, and now prevents insurance companies from preventing millions of Americans to access health care insurance because of pre-existing conditions. 

Of the eight questions Welch answered in depth, those questions and his answers follow:

What, if anything, would you do to reform how political campaigns are funded in the U.S.?

A: We must get dark money out of politics and strengthen our ethics laws. I strongly support a constitutional amendment to overturn the disastrous Citizens United decision and campaign finance and election reforms that will ensure our government is accountable to the people it serves, not special interests or corporations. I also strongly support public financing, which was included in H.R. 1, the For the People Act, which passed the House with my support.

How would you work within a legislative body that is starkly divided along partisan lines?

A: We’re witnessing a dangerous breakdown in what is essential to building a strong political system and strong communities, and that’s trust. I believe the best way to deal with it is for each of us, individually, to treat one another with respect and civility. It’s the Vermont Way. Each of us is responsible for carrying that on in our lives, and I’ve tried to bring that approach to Congress for 15 years. 

I will continue to focus on concrete issues that are important to Vermonters – and folks across the country. I’ve been able to make real progress in Congress when I focus on specific issues with my Republican and Democratic colleagues. It’s what I have done to help address our broadband problem in Vermont. I co-founded the bipartisan Rural Broadband Caucus, and we worked to get massive investments in broadband deployment in the recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, which will bring more than $100 million to Vermont. We are also on the verge of passing a major bipartisan bill (the Honoring our PACT Act) to help our veterans who have been exposed to toxic burn pits. I learned of the burn pit issue from Vermont veterans and their families and brought their stories to Washington and stayed on it to help make progress. It will help veterans get the health care and benefits they need to deal with the adverse impact of burn pit exposure while they were serving overseas. 

Finding commonality on specific, concrete issues like broadband and burn pits is how I have always approached my work and would continue to in the U.S. Senate.

What should Congress do to make higher education more affordable, attainable and accessible?

A: What was once a gateway to the middle-class has become a crushing financial burden on Americans trying to achieve the American Dream of a better life. We must reduce the burden of student debt. 

I support canceling some student loan debt for certain borrowers, loan forgiveness for graduates employed in public service and frontline healthcare jobs. I’ve also cosponsored the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act to double the Pell Grant award and tie grants to the inflation rate. 

We must also make college more affordable. One way to do that is through the Debt Free College Act, which I have cosponsored. It would incentivize states to achieve debt free college by unlocking matching federal funds. Expanding access to community and public colleges is also critical. I am a strong supporter and cosponsor of the College for All Act to waive tuition and fees for every community college student and qualifying students at public colleges and universities.

What would you do to address the rising costs of food, fuel and other goods?

A: The rising cost of fuel and goods is brutal for working families. We can and must relieve the pressure working families are feeling at the pump in the short term, while we work towards a more affordable future. It starts with addressing the Big Oil rip off. They are price-gouging during a time of instability around the world and we need to hold them accountable for profiteering and keeping production low to boost prices at the pump. The cost of gas is hurting Vermont families, while the oil companies are raking in record profits. This is outrageous and unacceptable. Congress must pass a windfall profits tax to stop this and bring down the cost of gas. 

I also supported the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, which passed the House and would help combat price gouging by the oil industry by giving federal regulators more authority to go after profiteering during this crisis. We also need to pass the COMPETES Act, which will help address supply chain issues and make sure we’re making the products we need in this country. 

In the long term, we need to be doing everything we can to fight the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs and lower the cost of childcare and housing. We addressed these affordability challenges in the Build Back Better Act, which passed the House with my support, but has since stalled in the Senate.

How would you work to restore public trust in elections?

A: I was in the House chamber on January 6th and heard the shot fired and saw the insurrectionists try to break down the doors to get to the House floor. It was a violent and terrible day, but what was even more shocking was that after the violence occurred 147 of my Republican colleagues voted against certifying Joe Biden as the duly elected President of the United States. And what has happened since then is that Trump-aligned state legislatures across the country are rolling back voting and election protections in an attempt to undermine the next election. 

It is critical that Congress take steps to protect the right of all Americans to vote and ensure the certification process is done without interference from politicalized state legislatures. 

Vermont has been leading the country in making it easier to vote, not harder. But that fight is raging outside of our state and a threat to anyone’s right to vote is a threat to us all. 

Congress needs to act now to address and prevent these attacks taking place all across the country. We must pass the Freedom to Vote Act, the For the People Act, and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. I cosponsored and helped pass these bills in the House, but they have stalled in the Senate because of the filibuster. It is another reason we need to abolish the filibuster.

What actions would you take to support rural areas and farmers?

A: Rural Vermont and our farmers help make Vermont such a special place. The beautiful scenery, the hard-working people, and the culture of community and care is core to our rural state… (Farmers) must play a role in our future local food system, the fight against climate change, and our state economy. I have been a fierce advocate my entire career in Congress for our dairy farmers, working to strengthen the dairy safety net with the Margin Protection Program, protect our trade agreements to ensure Vermont dairy has access to international markets, and instituting a supply management system. 

I’m working to end The Renewable Fuel Standard, an artificial corn ethanol subsidy that raises the cost of food prices, makes it more expensive for our farmers to buy feed, damages small engines, and harms the environment. I’ve fought to help Vermont families and children get access to affordable, nutritious meals that include locally sourced food products. This includes working to expand SNAP benefits, achieve universal school meals, increase funding for food banks, and help Vermonters in need.

Would you support new federal restrictions on the sale and use of firearms? If so, to what extent?

A: Yes. Enough is enough. We must enact gun safety reforms to address the epidemic of gun violence… I support banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, universal background checks, and closing loopholes in the federal background check law. Parents should not have to worry about the safety of their children when they are at school. Kids should not have to fear for their lives when they walk into their classroom. And teachers should not be required to be a security force on top of everything we ask them to do for our children and communities.

Under what conditions should the U.S. engage in the use of military force?

A: Diplomacy should always be the focus of our international engagement and approach to conflict. But there are times when the United States must engage militarily to protect our allies, national security, or address a humanitarian crisis. A major step in that process has to be Congressional engagement. The Constitution gives Congress the authority to declare war and far too often in recent decades, Congress has abdicated that authority to the President. We have seen wars expand into new territory and last too long with devastating consequences in the Middle East without Congressional involvement. Congress must be engaged by debating and voting on the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) when the United States sends our brave servicemembers to fight a foreign war.


GERALD MALLOY was born in Boston and became a West Point graduate. He spent 22 years on active duty as Field Artillery Officer with duty in Germany, Korea, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait. He used that experience to work in the federal government with defense contracts, and then used that experience to work in the private sector, primarily with defense and intelligence contracts. 

He moved to Vermont in 2020 from Massachusetts, and now lives in Windsor County. He’s married with four children, three in Vermont schools. He’s never run for political office before at any level.

In answering VtDigger’s 8 yes-or-no questions, Malloy said: 

• “no” to supporting a comprehensive health care program known as Medicare for all; 

• “no” to strengthening federal voting rights protections; 

• “no” to the federal legalizing of marijuana; 

• “no” to raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans; 

• “no” to continued federal funding for free testing and vaccination and treatment of COVID-19; and 

• “no” to term limits on members of Congress. 

He dodged the question on whether to support the continued operation of F-35 fighter jets out of South Burlington by writing “no response.” 

He responded “yes” to repealing the Affordable Care Act.

His in-depth answers follow as written with editing only when needed for clarity:

What, if anything, would you do to reform how political campaigns are funded in the U.S.?

A: I am interested in reform, but do not have specifics developed.

How would you work within a legislative body that is starkly divided along partisan lines?

A: Find the Tip O’Neill types.

What should Congress do to make higher education more affordable, attainable and accessible?

A: Stop overspending on stimulus and pork in omnibus actions; start making tough decisions to spend on important areas for future of USA, like Education. Mandate a percentage to go to Education.

What would you do to address the rising costs of food, fuel and other goods?

A: Overturn Oil/Gas Executive Orders; promote regaining independence and trade surplus. Promote farming/agriculture in U.S. for food independence. Implement real sanctions on countries USA should not be trading with, like Communist China. Made in USA, Made in Vermont.

How would you work to restore public trust in elections?

A: State-level reforms – paper only/no electronics, ID, dump rolls and complete redo, in person voting only with very limited exceptions; voting Holiday. Amend the Constitution so that there is no question that the VP/President of the Senate does in fact have the right to call for investigation if there is 25% of Congress vote of perception of impropriety, BEFORE certification.

What actions would you take to support rural areas and farmers?

A: I intend to seek to work on Senate Agriculture committee to support and grow Vermont farming, dairy, agriculture.

Would you support new federal restrictions on the sale and use of firearms? If so, to what extent?


Under what conditions should the U.S. engage in the use of military force?

When diplomacy fails and there are compelling needs to use force; last resort and only upon agreement and support from military leadership. (I am a combat Veteran).

Editor’s note: As indicated, candidate Q+As were provided by

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