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Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the most senior member of the Senate who was first elected in 1974, announced Monday that he would not seek re-election next year.

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According to the Associated Press, the 81-year-old senator said it was “time to pass the torch,” at a news conference in Montpellier, Vermont.

Leahy has the fifth longest Senate career in history, and serves as president pro tempore and chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.), the state’s only member in the House, is widely seen as a favorite to succeed Lehi, according to Bennington (Vt.) Banner,

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