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Vermont now only U.S. state to never send a woman to Congress

| Thursday, March 22, 2018, 12:42 p.m.
In this July 7, 2016 photograph, Elizabeth Willard Thames, left, walks back to her home, with her husband Nate, after working on their property in Vershire, Vermont. The couple, also known as 'The Frugalwoods', have managed to save a majority of their income, while redefining the meaning of thrift and gaining a national following along the way.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa
In this July 7, 2016 photograph, Elizabeth Willard Thames, left, walks back to her home, with her husband Nate, after working on their property in Vershire, Vermont. The couple, also known as 'The Frugalwoods', have managed to save a majority of their income, while redefining the meaning of thrift and gaining a national following along the way.

MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont, considered by many to be one of the most liberal states in the country with a higher-than-average percentage of women serving in the state Legislature, is the only state to have never sent a woman to Congress.

Vermont fell to the bottom of the women-in-Congress list Wednesday when Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant appointed fellow Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith to serve out the remainder of the term of retiring GOP Sen. Thad Cochran.

Former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin, a Democrat and the state's first female chief executive, called it “a little embarrassing to be beaten out by Mississippi.”

Deb Markowitz, who served 12 years as Vermont's secretary of state and then six as the secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources under Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, said there is little turnover in the state's congressional delegation, all of whom serve the state well.

Vermont, with a population of about 625,000, is the second-least populous state in the country, meaning it only has one at-large representative to the U.S. House.

Nevertheless, Markowitz tweeted Thursday, “We have a great delegation — but when there is a vacancy, count me in!”

Markowitz, who is now teaching at the University of Vermont, said after she tweeted she missed public service and didn't believe the lack of women in Congress meant the state's voters were hostile to women.

“If the timing was right, I think you can get an awful lot done in Congress and it's high time we had a woman representing Vermont,” she said.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy was first elected to the Senate in 1974. Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders was elected to the Senate in 2006, after serving in the U.S. House, the post to which he was first elected in 1990.

Vermont's lone U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, the newcomer to the delegation, was first elected in 2006.

Welch, at 70, is also the youngest member of the delegation. Leahy will be 78 later this month. Sanders is 76.

Despite the lack of women in Congress, Vermont's political bench is filled with possible female candidates. A survey of women in state legislatures shows that 40 percent of the members of the Vermont Legislature are women. The national average is just over 25 percent.

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