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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, May 26, 2024

Tufts alum Niki Thran runs for open Vermont Senate seat

Tufts alum and emergency room doctor Niki Thran formally announced her candidacy in the Vermont Senate race on Jan. 16.Thran is entering the race to replace Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) who is retiring after eight terms. 

Thran, who earned her bachelor’s degree from Tufts and her doctor of medicine degree from Vanderbilt, has spent 30 years of her life delivering care in emergency rooms. Since moving to Vermont in 2013, Thran has worked as an emergency physician at Gifford Medical Center in Randolph, Vt. 

In her campaign announcement speech, Thran noted that she has seen a steady decline in the United States health care system, which worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For the first time in 30 years, I have witnessed hospitals like mine implementing emergency standards of care that determine who will live and who will die,” Thran said in her speech. 

Thran believes that state reciprocity, which would allow medical personnel to be sent where they are most needed, could help solve the shortage of health care providers. If elected, she would introduce a bill for national licensing of all health care professionals, she said. 

Much of her platform focuses on the establishment of an accessible and affordable health care system that invests in rural communities.

Anna Cornish, former treasurer of Tufts Democrats and a Vermont resident, hopes that Thran’s campaign will spark a larger conversation about the health care system. 

“It was great to see that she does support a national health care system," Cornish, a senior, told the Daily. "I thought it was interesting that she didn't name support for Medicare for All.” 

Although Thran’s platform does not specifically endorse Medicare for All, Cornish believes Thran's health care plan would represent a vast improvement from the current U.S health care system. 

“According to the U.S. Census, an estimated 28 million Americans still lacked health insurance in 2020. That is almost 80 times the entire population of Vermont—that is unacceptable,” Thran said in her campaign speech. 

While Thran made clear her desire for a national health care system, Cornish and Silas Conlon, another student from Vermont, expressed that they want to hear more about Thran's stances on private health insurance and Medicare.

Conlon, a sophomore, was surprised that Thran didn’t advocate for the abolition of private health insurers. Conlon wonders how Thran’s stance will affect her chances of defeating Vermont's single House representative Peter Welch, who also announced his candidacy in the race.

Both Conlon and Cornish highlighted a pattern in Vermont politics where the state’s representative steps up to fill a vacant Senate seat. Rep. Peter Welch is considered to be a favorite in the race and has already served in the Vermont Senate before, in addition to having served as Vermont’s representative since 2006. 

“I feel like the way that someone could beat Peter Welch, who's also running for the seat, is by running to the left of him because he's a fairly establishment guy,” Conlon said. 

Cornish echoed this concern, noting that Thran's platform does not endorse the Green New Deal, which would raise $30 million annually for climate action through taxes on the wealthy. Welch endorsed the Green New Deal, leading Cornish to believe that Thran will need to elaborate her stances as the Democratic Primary on Aug. 9 gets closer.

In addition, Welch exceeds Thran not only in name recognition but in campaign funds. As of Dec. 1, Welch’s House account holds over $2 million while Thran has raised only $13 thousand. 

Cornish said she is interested in how Welch's political views have evolved since he was first elected.

“I would really like to check in and see where he stands on some of these issues in 2022, versus when he was first getting elected. And really make sure that whoever becomes senator is thoroughly vetted because it's such a position of power,” Cornish said. 

Conlon shared Cornish’s sentiment. He believes that Vermont residents will enjoy watching the competition between Thran and Welch play out. 

“I think that there's a general sense that we wish that it wasn't a shoo-in ... But the fact of the matter is, most politicians in Vermont know that it would be really hard to be around, especially because [Welch has] a lot of money, [and] he's been in office for so long,” Conlon said. 

If Thran wins, she would be the first woman to have been elected as Vermont’s senator. Vermont has never elected a woman to either house of Congress. 

“If she succeeds in getting her name out there, then that'll be really interesting. It will show something about what Vermonters want, but it's yet to be seen,” Conlon said.