Becca Balint, Vermont’s state Senate president, has won the Democratic nomination for the state’s at-large congressional seat, NBC News projects.
The victory makes her likely to become the first woman to represent the heavily Democratic state in Congress. Vermont is the only state that has never had a female member of its congressional delegation.
Balint, a state senator since 2014 who rose to Senate president two years ago, would also be the first openly gay lawmaker to represent the state on Capitol Hill should she win in November.
Balint, 54, a progressive Democrat backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and the Vermont icons Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the co-founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, defeated Lt. Gov. Molly Gray.
Leahy’s retirement announcement set the race for the House seat in motion. Democratic Rep. Peter Welch is running for the seat he is vacating.
Leahy, a Democrat, was elected to the Senate in 1974. Sanders, an independent and a former at-large representative, was elected to the Senate in 2006, the same year Welch was elected to the House.
The state has only three representatives in Congress — its two senators and an at-large House member.