FILE — In this Nov. 19, 2019, file photo, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., ask questions during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Welch is seeking re-election in Vermont's Aug. 11, 2020, Democratic primary. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool, File)

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — One of Vermont’s most popular elected officials, Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, defeated a single opponent Tuesday in the state’s primary election.

Welch, 73, who has served in Congress since 2007, defeated activist Ralph “Carajou” Corbo, 63, of Wallingford. Corbo also sought the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

During his years in the House, Welch has consistently been one of Vermont’s top statewide vote-getters.

In 2018, Welch was Vermont’s top statewide vote-getter receiving just under 68% of the vote. In 2016, he won just under 90% of the vote.

Welch, Vermont’s at-large member of Congress, said he has more energy for the job than he’s ever had as the country faces the “extraordinary challenges” of the coronavirus pandemic and what Welch described as President Donald Trump’s threat to democracy and issues of racial justice.

As of mid-evening Tuesday, the gap between the four Republicans seeking to challenge Welch — Miriam Berry, of Essex; Jimmy Rodriguez, of Montpelier; Justin Tuthill, of Pomfret; and Anya Tynio, of Charleston — was too close to call. Chris Brimmer, of Ryegate, and Cris Erickson, of Chester, are running as Progressives.

Corbo, 63, said he ran for Congress and also for governor after trying to get younger people to run for office, but during the pandemic, he wasn’t getting their commitment so he decided to run himself.

A record number of more than 150,000 Vermont voters requested early or absentee ballots ahead of Tuesday’s balloting under a special system set up to encourage safe voting during the coronavirus pandemic, Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos said on Monday.

To be counted in the primary, all ballots must have arrived at voters’ town or city clerk’s before 7 p.m. Tuesday, when the polls closed. Vermonters can also cast ballots traditionally.