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The paper reports Peter Welch is running to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Patrick Leahy. We have had Leahy in the Senate since 1974—48 years, six terms—and it’s certainly time for a change. We don’t need a carbon-copy of Leahy replacing him in that seat.

Welch has served eight terms as our sole member of the House of Representatives, and wants to step up to the other chamber.

I have a unique perspective of Peter Welch. I was his opponent in the election of 2008, when he sought and won his second term in the House. We held a debate in Bennington that year, and I had a chance to observe him in person.

Welch has a huge war chest, and even before other candidates have announced, is the favorite to win a year from now.

Peter Welch is a nice man. He’s smart and articulate. At the time I thought he would be more of a centrist, at least as measured by the political extremes of Sanders and Leahy, but I was wrong. Peter Welch fell right in the line with the far left policies of his party. He has shown virtually no independence as a legislator. He has been a mirror image of Pat Leahy.

Before we anoint him into this new office, we should consider what’s best for Vermont. In my view, the problem in Washington is a failure to respect other opinions. We hire these characters to represent us, but once they are seated, they change. They don’t put America first. They march lock-step with their party’s leadership, showing no independence of thought or judgment. Even Sanders, who once stood out as an independent thinker, has joined the chorus of the Democratic Party.

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Vermont needs a different kind of representative. We don’t need to replace Leahy with Leahy-lite. We need someone who can bring Vermont and the country back to the center.

We are in trouble here in Vermont. Taxes are too high. We’re losing population, particularly the youngest and brightest of us, who need to seek better-paying jobs outside the state. The elderly and the poor are being pushed out of their homes. Unemployment is low, but good jobs are hard to find. Vermont businesses are struggling to survive. Poverty, especially here in Bennington, is a continuing problem.

These are problems that Vermont alone cannot address. Solutions to them require courage and commitment from our representatives in Congress and the Senate. Unfortunately, our problems aren’t being heard because our senators and representative are too busy fighting the current war between the parties.

We need a candidate to challenge Peter Welch, one who will provide balance and reason. We can do much better, really. Somewhere there is a man or woman who will be a better choice, who will listen to us, not to the national party leadership. Someone who will put our interests first, who can rise above party, who can lead without making themselves into some kind of celebrity, or pandering to a crowd of progressives.

The political landscape has changed. America has changed. The old ways of doing business in government have not, however. And that’s because we’re still fighting old and tired battles when there is so much good to be done.

Compared to Vermont’s size, we do very well in the Senate. We get two votes out of 50. It’s an important position, and it makes a big difference who we send to Washington. Let’s not let this election go by without some serious thought. It is time for Vermonters to step up to the plate and look at an independent or Republican candidate that will truly represent what Vermonters have always lived and stood by.

Mike Bethel is a resident of Bennington. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bennington Banner.


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