On the Trail: Sanders urged to run again, but his supporters also want answers

For the Monitor
Published: 1/10/2019 7:01:20 PM

As progressive Democrat torch-bearer Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts makes her first trip to New Hampshire this weekend, some of Bernie Sanders’s 2016 backers will be holding meetings in the Granite State to encourage the independent senator from Vermont to launch a second presidential bid.

But before he decides on another run for the Democratic presidential nomination, some of his top supporters say he needs to clear the air on a sexual harassment controversy within his 2016 White House campaign.

The allegations of harassment and sexism in Sanders’s campaign – which were first reported last week by the New York Times and Politico – are raising new questions even among some of Sanders’s strongest supporters.

“My initial allegiance is to Sen. Sanders. I remain a member of the steering committee,” Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky told the Monitor.

“But there were serious concerns raised in the recent letter of harassment and discrimination and I’d like to see a complete and detailed response before fully committing to going forward with the Senator,” Volinsky added.

The Concord resident served as legal counsel for Sanders’s 2016 primary campaign in New Hampshire and as a delegate to the 2016 Democratic convention in Philadelphia.

Longtime state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark – vice chairwoman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party – was also Sanders’s delegate at the 2016 convention.

“This is a new era in terms of women’s leadership roles in so many different areas, including politics. I would hope that if Bernie does decide to run again, that he would make sure that his campaign was run differently,” Fuller Clark said.

Former state Sen. Burt Cohen, another New Hampshire Sanders delegate at the 2016 convention, agreed that “the problem has to be dealt with and rectified.”

Allegations of sexism briefly surfaced during Sanders’s 2016 White House bid, but the stories didn’t seriously impact his bid for the Democratic nomination against eventual nominee Hillary Clinton. But that was well before the #MeToo movement.

Reports of the controversy surfaced after former staffers and supporters shared stories in recent weeks – through email and online comments – of sexual harassment and pay disparity for women during the 2016 campaign.

Sanders said in a CNN interview last week that, “I certainly apologize to any woman who felt she was not treated appropriately, and of course if I run we will do better the next time.”

When asked if he knew about complaints from his female staffers, he answered “I was a little bit busy running around the country trying to make the case.”

Some leading Sanders supporters in New Hampshire told the Monitor that the allegations in recent weeks were directed more at Sanders’s 2016 campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, rather than at the candidate himself.

On Wednesday, CNN and Politico reported that Weaver wouldn’t steer the campaign again if the Vermont senator does launch another White House bid.

New Hampshire Democratic Party vice chairwoman Mo Baxley called the news a relief.

“I think it’s a big step in the right direction and I want to see further steps,” added Baxley, a member of the Sanders’s Granite State steering committee of top supporters.

Urging Bernie to run

On Saturday, Sanders supporters in the Granite State and across the country will be gathering in groups to encourage the senator to run again.

Nationally, the meetings are being organized by a relatively new PAC named “Organizing for Bernie.” The group, which is not associated with the senator, is headed by Rich Pelletier, a 2016 Sanders campaign aide.

In New Hampshire, meetings are scheduled for Concord and Nashua. Baxley is organizing the Concord gathering. She told the Monitor that the mission of the gatherings are two-fold.

“One is to convince Bernie to run again, but two it’s to start building the infrastructure so that if the senator announces, there’s already a structure in place ready to hit the ground running,” she explained.

The meetings were planned before Wednesday’s announcement that Warren would be visiting New Hampshire on Saturday, the same day of Sanders gatherings.

Separately, the pro-Sanders group “Our Revolution” is planning upcoming events as part of its effort to encourage the senator to launch a second presidential campaign.

‘Fair shake’?

We’re learning more about Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee’s upcoming trip to the first-in-the-nation primary state. The potential Democratic presidential contender will speak to Granite State college students about climate change.

Inslee will address students at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College at 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 22, followed by a 1 p.m. speech at Dartmouth College.

“The science is clear. We have a short period of time to act. And whether we shrink from this challenge of defeating climate change, or rise to it, is the biggest question we face, as a nation and as a people,” said Inslee, who’s long advocated for a stiffer response to battling climate change.

As previously reported, Inslee will be in Concord the previous day, Jan. 21, to headline an event for the League of Conservation Voters that will be held at the home of former congressman Paul Hodes.

Inslee chaired the Democratic Governors Association during the 2018 election cycle. He visited New Hampshire just days after former state Sen. Molly Kelly won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in the state’s Sept. 11 primary, teaming up with Kelly at multiple events.

But the DGA ended up not putting any money into the New Hampshire gubernatorial showdown, while the rival Republican Governor’s Association showered some $300,000 into the race in the closing days, in support of GOP incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu.

At the time, an internal Democratic poll suggested Sununu’s lead had dropped to a single point. The Republican governor ended up defeated Kelly by a 53 percent to 46 percent margin.

When the news broke last week that Inslee was coming to New Hampshire, longtime state Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley – in a rare move – appeared critical of a potential White House hopeful, telling the Monitor and WMUR, “I look forward to hearing from Gov. Inslee his reasons for abandoning New Hampshire in 2018 as chair of the DGA.”

Asked Thursday about his earlier comment, Buckley said, “I just said I look forward to having a conversation with him. That’s not criticizing somebody.”

Buckley reiterated that he thinks Inslee has some explaining to do.

“If you’re thinking about running for president and you have the ability to allocate funds and you choose not to allocate funds in New Hampshire when we had a winnable race, I think it’s a legitimate question,” Buckley said.

“I’m sure he has a good answer. I’ll ask him the question, he’ll give me the answer and we’ll move on,” Buckley concluded.

The chairman said there will be a level playing field in New Hampshire for all 2020 Democratic contenders and added that “of course” Inslee will get a fair shake.

In a move toward running for president, Inslee last month formed a political action committee named the Vision PAC. An announcement of a presidential exploratory committee could be imminent.

 Yang making good on $1,000 per month offer

Warren won’t betheonly Democratic presidential contender in New Hampshire this weekend. Andrew Yang will be in the state Friday, making multiple stops in Concord and Manchester.

Yang – a longshot for the nomination who declared his candidacy last year – was the CEO of the test-prep education company Manhattan GMAT before launching Venture for America, a New York City-headquartered organization that trains entrepreneurs.

Last year, Yang announced that he would personally give a Granite Stater $1,000 each month in 2019 to illustrate his campaign pledge to pay what he calls a “freedom dividend” to all adult Americans.

Yang kicks off his trip with a stop at the Goffstown home of the Fassis, the family selected to receive the candidate’s “freedom dividend.”


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