Vermont (AL) (Open Seat)
Outlook: Likely Democratic
This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.
July 13, 2006 Update:
Without the presence of an established third-party Progressive on the November ballot, Democratic state Sen. Peter Welch seems to stand a much improved chance of succeeding Senate aspirant and Independent Rep. Bernie Sanders in Vermont’s only House seat.
GOP standard-bearer National Guard Gen. Martha Rainville has kept pace with Welch in fundraising as of the close of the first quarter of 2006, and Republicans claim she is receiving good reviews on the campaign trail. At the end of the day, however, it is difficult for the Crystal Ball to believe Rainville has a good shot at capturing this open seat in the bluest of states in a pro-Democratic year, especially when Welch seems to have Sanders’ blessing.
State Sen. Peter Welch’s skeptics point out that he has been an unsuccessful seeker of statewide office in the past, but he remains the favorite to defeat National Guard Gen. Martha Rainville, who is performing as well as can be expected as a Republican in a Democratic state and a Democratic year.
February 2006 Outlook:
Self-professed socialist and Independent/Progressive Rep. Bernie Sanders is running for Senate, so Vermont legislators on each side of the aisle are lining up for the shot to win one of the Green Mountain State’s three tickets to Washington.
National Republicans are bullish on the chances of National Guard Gen. Martha Rainville, who several months ago delcared her GOP affiliation and her interest in the seat. She is the current favorite to claim the Republican nomination.
Democrats seem to have coalesced around the candidacy of liberal State Sen. Peter Welch. In this, the “People’s Republic of Vermont,” Welch will likely have the advantage in November 2006, though if Progressive Party state legislator David Zuckerman proceeds with a House candidacy, the left-of-center vote could be split to Rainville’s advantage.
Incidentally, in one of the oddities of American politics, the handful of states like Vermont that have just a single U.S. Representative (seven states total) always have pitched battles for an open seat. After all, it’s a statewide election, the equivalent of a U.S. Senate contest, with one distinction: The House winner is more special than the senators. He or she has the House floor alone in representing the state’s interests, while the two senators inevitably become rivals, jockeying each other for credit and status within their legislative chamber.