Rep. Peter Welch (D), Vermont’s sole House member, said Monday that he is moving forward with a widely expected bid to succeed Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who announced last week that he would not seek a ninth term next year.

In a statement, Welch promised to fight for progressive values if elected to a chamber now evenly divided among Democrats and Republicans.

“We are at a pivotal moment,” Welch said. “Vermont families are struggling through multiple crises: a global pandemic, the consequences of climate change, and a racial reckoning generations in the making. The result of this election will determine control of the Senate and with it, what we can accomplish for Vermont families.”

Welch, 74, enters the race as the front-runner to replace Leahy, 81, the longest-serving member in the Senate. Welch has served in the House since 2007 and is considered one of its more liberal members.

Welch has a long history in Vermont politics, having previously served as president pro tempore of the state Senate. During a news conference last week announcing his retirement, Leahy praised Welch as “remarkable.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) swiftly endorsed Welch on Monday. Welch “has the knowledge and experience to fight for a government that works for all, not just the wealthy few,” Sanders said in a statement.

Welch pledged in his statement to work to expand access to child care and paid family leave, pass a Green New Deal, lower health-care and prescription drug costs, protect abortion rights and safeguard voting rights.

In an accompanying video, he cast himself as someone who listens to his constituents and gets things done.

Vermont, where Biden won with 66 percent of the vote last year, has not been represented in the U.S. Senate by a Republican since 2001. Sanders, 80, the state’s current junior senator, is a self-described democratic socialist who caucuses with the Democrats.

Phil Scott, the state’s governor since 2017, has demonstrated that a Republican can still prevail in a statewide race in Vermont, however. He was reelected last year with nearly 69 percent of the vote.