Former US Attorney Christine Nolan launches GOP bid for Vermont’s open Senate seat

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EXCLUSIVE: Former U.S. Attorney Christine Nolan is pledging a “fresh perspective” as she launches a Republican campaign for an open Senate seat in Vermont held for nearly half a century by retiring Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy.

“I’m running for Senate because we need leadership that will unify the country – leadership that will work across the aisle to make positive change for Vermonters and their families,” Nolan said on Tuesday as she formally declared her candidacy in an announcement shared first with Fox News.

The 42-year-old Nolan, a lifelong Vermonter, had the backing of Leahy and Republican Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont when she was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2017 in becoming the first female U.S. Attorney in the state’s history. And Nolan, who co-chaired the Justice Department’s nationwide effort to fight sexual harassment in housing, would make history again if she wins in November to become Vermont’s first female senator.

“When I think about what defines Vermont, I think about our independent spirit. Our work ethic. Natural beauty. And our tradition of stepping up and taking care of one another when times are tough,” Nolan says launching her campaign. “I think it’s a blessing and a privilege to have been born in Vermont, to have been raised in Vermont and to call myself a Vermonter. That privilege and that blessing – which I did nothing to earn, I just got lucky – has called me to public service and to give back to the state that gave me so much.”

Nolan, who led an investigation that uncovered an illegal kickback scheme perpetrated by Purdue Pharma to overprescribe highly addictive opioid painkillers which led to a historic $8.3 billion settlement with the pharmaceutical giant, highlighted that “the first job of government is public safety, preventing people from using drugs and getting those with substance use disorder into treatment.”

She also emphasized that “we need to get the workforce back to work so that our small businesses can thrive, stay open and create jobs.”

Nolan is the only major Republican to date to jump into the Senate race. If she wins August 7th GOP primary, she likely face Democratic Rep. Peter Welch in November’s general election. The 74-year-old Welch, a former longtime state lawmaker’s who’s held Vermont’s at large House seat in Congress for a decade and a half, is the overwhelming favorite to win the Democratic primary.

Sen. Patrick Leahy speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on May 1, 2019.
(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

And in a heavily blue state that last elected a Republican to the Senate 22 years ago – when moderate GOP Sen. Jim Jeffords was reelected – Welch would be considered the favorite to win the open seat contest. But in a rough political cycle for Democrats as they try to defend their razor-thin majority in the Senate, Nolan may have a shot at pulling an upset.

Nolan struck a bipartisan tone in her announcement, taking aim at both major political parties.

“Leaders in Washington of both parties have lost their way. They are more interested in fighting with each other and beating the other party. It’s cynicism and gridlock. It’s ‘I win or you lose,’” she argued. 

And she predicted that “when we elect a new generation of leaders with a fresh perspective, new energy, people who have servants’ hearts, we can chart a new course where we start reaching across the aisle and treating each other the way Vermonters treat each other: like neighbors. I want to go to Washington to serve Vermonters, to serve people, not just a political party and its agenda.”

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