By Sarah Mearhoff/ VTDigger
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., is not just backing Lt. Gov. Molly Gray’s Democratic bid for the U.S. House with financial and institutional resources. On Friday, July 28, he said he has already cast his own ballot for her.
“Like many Vermonters I voted early,” Leahy said in a written statement Friday. “While I think highly of both of the leading candidates, I voted for Molly Gray because I believe her experience is well suited to the job. Her work in Congress, her legal training, her deep connections to Vermont communities. Molly will serve Vermont well in Congress.”
While Leahy is supporting Gray as his successor, Independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is endorsing Gray’s opponent Becca Balint.
Earlier this week, Leahy’s Green Mountain Political Action Committee sent $5,000 Gray’s way, according to a new filing with the Federal Election Commission.
Throughout the primary election cycle, Leahy has appeared in Gray’s campaign materials, offered institutional resources and connections, and now, contributed financially to her first campaign for Congress. Earlier this month, the senator’s wife, Marcelle Leahy, endorsed Gray.
Green Mountain PAC is Leahy’s leadership PAC, through which he can donate money to other political candidates. The PAC so far this election cycle has raised more than $482,000 and sent at least $110,000 to Democratic candidates, such as New Hampshire’s U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan ($10,000), Connecticut’s U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal ($7,500) and Pennsylvania’s Senate hopeful John Fetterman ($5,000), as well as other Democrats running for the U.S. Senate.
“I am working hard to ensure Green Mountain PAC can support Democratic Senate candidates in 2022,” Leahy said in a statement on the PAC’s website. “Together, we will expand the Democratic Senate majority to fight for all Americans.”
The PAC’s gift to Gray is an outlier, since she’s the only U.S. House candidate to receive such a donation thus far this cycle.
Leahy’s longtime campaign manager Carolyn Dwyer, who has also played a leading role advising Gray’s campaign, told VTDigger on Thursday that she is an administrator of the PAC.
Meanwhile, Gray’s top primary opponent, state Sen. Becca Balint, D-Windham, won the endorsement of Vermont’s junior U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., earlier this month.
Following Sanders’ endorsement in early July, Leahy spokesperson David Carle said in a written statement that Leahy “thinks highly of Lt. Governor Gray, who served in his office.” The next day, Gray’s campaign launched a television ad featuring footage of Gray alongside Leahy, filmed during Gray’s 2020 bid for lieutenant governor.
On Friday, after announcing his own vote, Leahy reiterated what he has said numerous times throughout the primary cycle: “As I have said before, I trust Vermonters to make their own decisions about who will represent them.” Leahy also echoed concerns voiced by Gray’s campaign about the more than $800,000 spent by LGBTQ+ and progressive PACs in support of Balint.
“I have been deeply concerned about the flood of outside money in the House race,” he wrote. “These are two qualified women who are capable of running their own races without outside interference. I think Vermonters will judge if this outside spending is welcome in such an important campaign. I believe it is wrong and should have no place in our elections.”