In 2018, Mississippi elected Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican, in a special election for the US Senate where she still serves today. Her election meant that Mississippi, one of the most conservative states in the nation, passed a milestone by voting to become the first woman in the United States of America to serve either House or Senate.
It was also meant that there was a certain awkwardness in Vermont. While proclaiming to be polar opposite of Mississippi and with the leading Progressive representative like Senator Bernie Sanders, the Green Mountain State was now the state that had never sent a woman to Washington.
With the announcement on Monday morning that the 81-year-old Senator would not seek reelection next year, there's already extensive discussion about electing a woman to Congress. Here is where we sit just hours before the announcement. It is much more likely than not that a woman will be elected and end Vermonts male-only representation to Washington.
Women have long been faced logistical and frankly, sexist perception hurdles for running for political office, and for now, there is a practical reason why women haven't been elected to Congress recently in Vermont: in 16 years nobody has been elected to Congress from the state.
Although it is true, Vermont has only three members of Congress and they never leave. The last time there was a scramble was in 2006 when Bernie Sanders went to take the House seat held by retiring Republican Jim Jeffords. The 2012 election was the same year that Peter Welch was elected senator in 1974. Leahy has served, as the first elected Democrat in his eighth term, the second of his generation.
The study of history indicates that the most influential republicans in Vermont believe that welch is poised to go from the House to the US Senate without much competition. This, of course, assumes that the popular Republican Governor Phil Scott keeps his position he isn't interested in running for the job.
Welchs seat is probably to be open next year, and a woman will surely win it.
In fact, the last few most talked-about potential Democratic candidates to this role are all women, including the Vermont Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint, Democratic Lt. Governor Molly Gray, and the Vermont Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale. We are at the point where, as an example we have at a VTDigger event last month, the debate has been over whether a man wants to run for the seat, it's possible for him to do this.
Of course, the Democratic Party is still very early in the 2022 election season. For those who want an election, a male candidate is allowed to run and gain momentum for all other reasons. And the Republican Welch, who was elected House seat in 2006, beat a woman with a good military background, with an impressive gender barrier-breaking military background.
While considering all the lists Leahy made in his time in office, including as the fourth longest-serving US Senator ever, Vermont residents might have the same choice as the state with a female member in Washington who has never elected a woman.
James Pindell can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell.