- Associated Press - Friday, June 26, 2015

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Vermont Congressman Peter Welch announced Friday that he’s passing up a possible campaign for governor in 2016 and will seek re-election to the U.S. House, opening the field for other Democratic candidates.

Welch, 68, said he decided the best way he could serve Vermont was by staying in Congress where he said he’s established relationships across party lines that have helped lead to accomplishments like state funding in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene.

“What I see as the benefit to me staying in Congress is I’ve got nine years, Vermonters have nine years invested in me, I’ve used those years to maintain and build relationships and it’s those relationships much more than seniority these days that make a difference in your ability to be effective,” he said.

Welch called Congress a broken institution, but said he wants to continue working in Washington to try to fix it. “And we need problem solvers here and we need people who have credibility to approach it that way, to put getting things accomplished ahead of the partisan politics that is really a threat to the well-being of this country,” he said.

His announcement spurred speculation about who might seek the Democratic nomination now that he’s out of the race.

House Speaker Shap Smith said Friday that he’s still seriously considering a run for governor and expects to have an announcement soon.

“I had been really clear that I would not challenge Rep. Welch if he decided to run for governor …” Smith said.

Former state legislator Matt Dunne, of Hartland, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2006 and in the Democratic primary for governor in 2010, said he will talk with his family and Vermonters and make an announcement when the time is right.

“I appreciate the time that Peter Welch took in making his decision because it wasn’t an easy decision I’m sure,” Dunne said.

Doug Racine, former lieutenant governor, human services secretary and state senator, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Racine lost narrowly to Gov. Peter Shumlin in the 2010 Democratic primary.

Among the possible Republican candidates are: Lieutenant Gov. Phil Scott, Randy Brock of Swanton, a former state senator and state auditor, who ran unsuccessfully against Shumlin for governor in 2012; and Scott Milne, of Pomfret, a travel company executive, who nearly defeated Shumlin last year.


AP writer Dave Gram contributed to this report.



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