New Sanders campaign director in N.H. vows to work ‘very closely’ with longtime steering committee

  • The new Sen. Bernie Sanders campaign director in N.H., Shannon Jackson, says he vows to work “very closely” with longtime steering committee. PAUL STEINHAUSER / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 9/17/2019 4:53:02 PM

Shannon Jackson emphasizes that he’s “in constant communications” with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders steering committee of longtime top supporters in New Hampshire.

“I really appreciate everything the steering committee is doing,” Jackson highlighted in an interview Tuesday with the Monitor. “They are an incredible group of leaders and activists.”

Jackson’s comments came two days after he replaced Joe Caiazzo as the Sanders campaign’s state director in New Hampshire.

While Jackson said “Joe set up an incredible team here, a great foundation,” one of the apparent reasons Caiazzo was transferred to his home state of Massachusetts to beef up the campaign’s Super Tuesday operations was growing discontent from many steering committee members that their suggestions were being unheeded and that their warnings that Sanders could lose the first-in-the-nation presidential primary to his rival and fellow progressive standard bearer Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

On Sunday, it was Jackson who announced to a meeting of the steering committee that he was replacing Caiazzo as state director. The response by the more than 40 people attending was positive.

Several longtime Sanders backers told the Monitor they were pleased changes were “finally” made and were pleased that Jackson was replacing Caiazzo.

The independent senator from Vermont crushed Hillary Clinton in the February 2016 Democratic primary in New Hampshire, launching the one-time longshot into an epic battle with the eventual presidential nominee. He finally ended his campaign and formally backed Clinton at join-rally in July of 2016 in the Granite State.

The Sanders steering committee in New Hampshire has met monthly ever since the 2016 general election. And as Sanders launched his second White House bid, he was arguably the most organized candidate in the Granite State. Part of that credit goes to the efforts of the steering committee.

Jackson spotlighted that “they have great ideas and I’m looking forward to working very closely with them.”

And he announced that “here are already monthly steering committee meetings on the books and we’re going to be increasing those even more so.”

While New Hampshire was Sanders country during the 2016 primary, the 2020 race is a very different contest, with a record-setting number of Democrats running for the White House. Sanders is now facing rivals such as Warren who are preaching the same progressive policies that he first made mainstream in the Democratic Party four years ago. And he’s also competing with former Vice President Joe Biden, who’s been the front-runner in the race since launching his bid in late April.

The most recent polls in the state have fluctuated. The latest, live telephone operator survey from the Boston Herald and Franklin Pierce University indicated Sanders at 29%, overall front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden at 21% and Warren at 19%. Another recent poll suggested a three-way tie between the three top-tier contenders and a third suggested Sanders lagging behind Biden and Warren.

Sanders, along with Warren, Biden, and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, have the largest ground organizations in the state, with Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California, and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke of Texas not far behind.

Jackson told the Monitor that “we’re about to double our field staff Oct. 1,” saying the campaign will go from 26 to 50 field organizers.”

He added that “we have six offices with many more coming on line.”

And he noted that “we are not taking anything for granted. … We’re all about getting out in the community and talking to people and making sure we’re connected with them.”

The decision by Sanders to put Jackson on the ground in New Hampshire was telling. Jackson is very close with the senator, serving first as a body man to Sanders before moving up to an adviser during the 2016 presidential campaign. Jackson managed the senator’s 2018 re-election campaign in Vermont and was serving as the 2020 campaign’s northeast regional director before taking over operations in the Granite State.

The shakeup of leadership in New Hampshire came a day after the campaign parted ways with senior New Hampshire adviser Kurt Ehrenberg.

“From the very beginning there was clear and fundamental disagreement between Mr. Caiazzo and myself on how to run a successful presidential primary campaign in New Hampshire,” Ehrenberg said on Sunday.

The longtime New Hampshire resident who’s been involved in state politics and grassroots organizing for more than three decades set up from virtually scratch the crucial Granite State organization for Sanders’s first White House bid in the spring and summer of 2015.

Ehrenberg, who was often seen at Sanders side the past five years, said his personal rich admiration for the senator remains strong and he still very much hopes the candidate will end up winning the Democratic nomination and ultimately the White House. He also has a strong working relationship with Jackson.

Asked if Ehrenberg would return to the campaign, Jackson said “I actually called Kurt yesterday. We had a great conversation. ... Kurt is an incredible resource and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with him in some manner.”

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