Sanders to seek his third Senate term

VERMONT — Sen. Bernie Sanders is seeking a third term in the U.S. Senate.
The Vermont independent announced Monday that he will run for re-election this year, pledging to work toward longtime hallmarks of his political career, such as single-payer health care and raising the minimum wage.
“The ideas that I have been fighting for for years, which at one point were seen … to be fringe ideas, unacceptable ideas, out of the mainstream ideas, well they have now become the ideas that a majority of the American people believe in,” Sanders said in an interview.
He also expressed a desire to resist many of the initiatives President Donald Trump has pursued in office. He pointed to Trump’s proposed budget, which would cut money from programs like Medicaid and Medicare.
“I want to do everything I can to oppose this disastrous Trump agenda,” Sanders said.
Sanders plans to formally kick off his campaign with a series of events around Vermont in June.
The 76-year-old is a longtime figure in Vermont politics. Before Sanders was first elected to the Senate in 2006, he served eight terms in the U.S. House. He previously served as mayor of Burlington.
Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats in Congress, will run for the Democratic nomination in the primary in August. If he wins it, he will “respectfully decline” and run in November as an independent — the same approach he has taken in previous years, he said.
“That’s how Vermonters know me, and that’s what I will continue to do,” Sanders said.
Sanders enters the race with a solid fundraising foundation and a high approval rating among Vermont voters. He had $6.9 million in his war chest as of the most recent disclosures in March.
A recent Morning Consult poll found 61 percent of Vermonters feel Sanders deserves another term — almost twice the rate for an average senator. Meanwhile, 32 percent said the felt it was time for him to give it up.
Sanders does have some competition in the race. According to Secretary of State records, one Republican candidate, Jasdeep Pannu, is registered for the U.S. Senate race in Vermont this year. Others have indicated plans to run, including Brad Peacock of Shaftsbury, who is running as an independent.
While Sanders has broad popularity in Vermont, his family has faced some controversy recently related to his wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, and her handling of a land deal at Burlington College.
Middlebury political professor emeritus Eric Davis said it will be interesting to see how many events Sanders holds in Vermont versus how many he holds in other states where Democrats have a potential to pick up a seat.
Sanders, who is the chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus outreach committee, has already hit the campaign trail in states and congressional districts where Democrats have a shot at turning a seat, such as Pennsylvania.
“What is more important to him, to spend time among his constituents in Vermont … or to go to some other states and campaign on behalf of a candidate who might take back a seat in the House?” Davis said.
Davis noted that campaigning for candidates in other states will also give Sanders opportunities to “continue testing the waters” for another run for the White House.
Another consideration for the 2018 midterms in Vermont is what impact Sanders’ re-election run will have on turnout in the state. Non-presidential election years tend to have lower rates of turnout, especially when there are not open seats in any of the state’s top offices. However, Davis said, lower turnout rates could have an impact on state legislative races.
Sanders acknowledged that he will be hitting the campaign trail for candidates in other states in the lead-up to November, saying that he thinks it is very important to support progressives around the country this election cycle.
However, he vowed to get “to every corner” of Vermont and hold rallies and town meetings.
As to whether Sanders has given any thought to a 2020 presidential bid, the senator said Monday that he is focused “with every fiber of my being” on the 2018 elections.
“2020 from a political point of view is a very, very long time away and we’ve got to focus on 2018,” he said.

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