Democrats to back Sanders

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(Host) The national Democratic Party will back Independent Congressman Bernie Sanders in the upcoming Vermont U.S. Senate race.

Sanders has made clear his intentions to run for the seat now held by Senator Jim Jeffords. And an official with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee says the party will help in any way it can.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Host) Although he’s not a member of any party, Sanders works closely with House Democrats, and the party has let him move up within its seniority system. In the 2006 Vermont U.S. Senate race, national Democrat organizers see Sanders as their candidate.

(Singer) “We did pretty well with an independent named Jeffords, and we think we’d end up doing fine with an independent named Sanders.”

(Dillon) Phil Singer is spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the organization that coordinates Senate races around the country for the party.

(Singer) “In the past we’ve seen Bernie Sanders has caucused with Democrats in the House, just as Jim Jeffords has caucused with Democrats in the Senate. We feel pretty optimistic, and pretty excited about, getting Bernie Sanders into the race.”

(Dillon) Republicans now have fifty-five Senate seats compared to forty-four Democrats. Jeffords is the lone Independent.

There will be thirty-three Senate races in 2006, and it’s clear that the Vermont contest will be a top priority for both parties. Singer says it’s too early to say how much money or organizational support the Democrats can provide.

(Singer) “We’ll take a look at each race at it develops. Our role is to help elect candidates that are going to advance the values of working Americans, and do our best to help get them elected to the U.S. Senate.”

(Dillon) In the days following Jeffords’ decision to pull out of the race, Sanders got a boost from the liberal on-line organization called “Move-On-dot-org.” Move-On surveyed its Vermont members over the weekend, and ninety-six percent of them said Sanders should run for Jeffords’ seat.

Members of the group also pledged $135,000 for the campaign.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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