In N.H. stop, Sanders says he’ll run for Senate re-election as an independent

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, following Senate policy luncheons. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik

  • FILE- In this April 20, 2017, file photo, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a rally for Omaha Democratic mayoral candidate Heath Mello in Omaha, Neb. Sanders is holding rallies to focus attention on worker's rights and the minimum wage on Labor day. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File) Charlie Neibergall

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders holds a press conference on a "Medicare for All" health care bill on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Sanders is set to introduce a new "Medicare for All" health care bill with nearly a third of the Senate Democratic caucus by his side. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS) Olivier Douliery

For the Monitor
Sunday, October 22, 2017

Bernie Sanders said he’ll run for re-election next year as an independent candidate.

The 2016 Democratic presidential candidate and independent senator from Vermont made the news in an interview with the Monitor on Sunday evening after energizing Democratic activists packed into the American Legion hall in Rollinsford, along the Maine border. Sanders’s trip to the first-in-the-nation primary state was his second in less than two months, sparking more speculation that he just may run again for the White House in 2020.

But before any potential 2020 White House run, the former Burlington, Vt., mayor and congressman must deal with his 2018 re-election for a third term in the U.S. Senate.

“I am an independent, and I have always run in Vermont as an independent, while I caucus with the Democrats in the United States Senate,” Sanders said. “That’s what I’ve been doing for a long time and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”

While running as an independent next year doesn’t prevent Sanders from making another bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, pundits said running as a Democrat in 2018 may have been a signal of his 2020 intentions.

Earlier, Sanders received repeated standing ovations as he headlined a Strafford County Democratic Committee fundraising dinner.

The senator highlighted his single-payer Medicare for all plan, which he introduced in the Senate last month.

“It seems clear to me that we have one system that works well, and that’s called Medicare. Now is the time to expand Medicare for all and create a single-payer health care system,” Sanders said.

He said that last time he introduced the legislation, “I had one co-sponsor. Me.”

Then he boasted that “this time around we have 16 co-sponsors.”

The ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee described the Senate GOP budget that narrowly passed last week as “ugly” and he railed against the Republican tax proposals as a “moral obscenity.”

“We are going to defeat that proposal,” he said.

Asked later about his plan to defeat the GOP tax plan, Sanders explained, “I think we go to the American people.”

He was confident that the tax plan will be defeated “just as we were able to defeat their efforts to destroy the Affordable Care Act and throw some 30 million people off health insurance.”

Sanders also called for tuition-free colleges and universities, a $15-an-hour minimum wage, gender income equality, the creation “of decent-paying union jobs,” and the overturning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, in his 45 minute speech.

Sanders argued that “these are not radical ideas,” and emphasized that “our job is to get people to move beyond the ugly 30-second ads and talk about the issues.”

Sanders crushed eventual Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire’s February 2016 first-in-the-nation Democratic presidential primary, launching him toward a long and bitter battle with Clinton for the nomination.

Sunday’s quick trip back to the Granite State was his second in two months. He headlined a major union breakfast in Manchester and a progressive rally in Concord on Labor Day.

Last week, Sanders topped a large list of possible 2020 contenders for the Democratic nomination in a new poll. Thirty-one percent of likely 2020 New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary voters said Sanders was their early choice in a Granite State Poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

Strafford County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Ellen Phillips said this was the first time a non-Democrat headlined one of their fundraising dinners. She said “it’s been an issue for me,” but added that “he’s going to make a lot of money for our candidates, and that’s a good thing.”

Phillips said she voted for Sanders in last year’s presidential primary, but cautioned that Sanders’s age – he’s 76 – may be an issue next time around, adding that if she had her choice, she’d like a younger progressive as the Democratic Party’s nominee.

“I love what Bernie says. I love the fact that he gets people energized. I love the fact that he gets people out to vote,” she said. “If no other candidate can do that, then, yes, I’d like to see Bernie run again, but I’d like to see him with a very young vice president.”

State Sen. Martha Fuller Clark of Portsmouth, who’s 75 herself, said, “I think we need to see who’s out there, the playing field.”

Clark, the vice chairwoman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, who was the only Granite State superdelegate at last year’s Democratic convention to back Sanders, added that “I think he has a very compelling message.”

But she pointed out that others in the party “are concerned that perhaps it would be better to have a younger person carrying the message.”