Vermont Democratic US Rep. Welch challenged by GOP nurse

One of Vermont’s most popular elected officials, Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, said Wednesday he is planning to campaign hard and he's looking forward to debating his Republican challenger ahead of the November general election.

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Welch, who has served in Congress since 2007, will face Miriam Berry, an Essex nurse who won the Republican Party primary on Tuesday.

Welch defeated activist Ralph “Carajou” Corbo, 63, of Wallingford for the Democratic nomination in the primary race. Corbo also sought the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

Berry beat three other candidates — Jimmy Rodriguez, of Montpelier; Justin Tuthill, of Pomfret; and Anya Tynio, of Charleston — to receive her party's nomination.

During his years in the House, Welch, 73, has consistently been one of Vermont’s top statewide vote-getters.

In 2018, Welch got just under 68% of the vote. In 2016, he won just under 90% of the vote.

Welch, Vermont’s at-large member of Congress, said he has more energy for the job than he’s ever had as the country faces the “extraordinary challenges” of the coronavirus pandemic, what Welch described as President Donald Trump’s threat to democracy and issues of racial justice.

He said Wednesday he was grateful for the support shown by Vermont's Democrats. He said he felt his popularity was due to his continued focus on the state's needs.

"It's all Vermont, all the time and my job is to be connected to Vermonters constantly and bringing Vermont values to Washington," Welch said.

On Wednesday Berry said she felt the House of Representatives, with its two-year terms, was designed for regular citizens to be involved in government.

“I am conservative," she said when asked to give a concise definition of her beliefs. “I am for civil rights. I think that we can cut a lot of waste out of our budget and it's time for a change.”

She said she was looking forward to the campaign and she is grateful for the support of Vermont's Republican Party.

Despite Welch's popularity, she feels she can win in November.

“I feel that I have things to offer,” she said.

A record number of more than 150,000 Vermont voters requested early or absentee ballots ahead of Tuesday’s balloting under a special system set up to encourage safe voting during the coronavirus pandemic, Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos said.