(Host) Congressman Bernard Sanders will return to Washington in January. The nation’s only Independent Congressman defeated Republican challenger William Meub by a wide margin.
VPR’s Nina Keck reports:
(Sound of supporters cheering) “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!”
(Keck) Bernie Sanders claimed victory around 9:00 p.m. [Tuesday] – a little less than an hour after he had defeated his Republican Challenger Bill Meub. Surrounded by well over 100 supporters at Sweetwater’s Restaurant in downtown Burlington, Sanders thanked his staff and family for all their hard work:
(Sanders) “But mostly, I want to thank the people of the state of Vermont for once again sending me back to Washington. And as I have in the past, what I pledge again is to do my very best to stand up for the middle class – the working families of our state who are struggling to get health care, who are struggling to get decent paying jobs, who are struggling to get affordable prescription drugs, who want the government of the United States to represent all the people, not just the wealthy and the powerful.” (Sound of applause.)
(Keck) Sanders’ message has been popular with Vermonters and he was heavily favored in the race. Trying to sway voters, Sanders’ main challenger, Republican Bill Meub portrayed himself as a moderate who could get things done in Washington. Meub called Sanders extreme and said his opponent’s lack of party affiliation made him ineffectual as a lawmaker. Sanders says Vermonters didn’t buy it:
(Sanders) “They don’t buy it because we have a very strong record of achievement. One of the most important pieces of legislation that was passed in the last year for Vermont was the National Dairy Farm Program and I wrote that legislation. And we’ll bring in about $50 million for family farmers in the next several years. In terms of the high cost of prescription drugs, I think it has been acknowledged that I’ve been one of the leaders in forcing the White House, forcing the administration to deal with that issue. So I think the record of achievement is very long and most Vermonters simply do not believe anyone that says Bernie Sanders is ineffective.”
(Keck) Andrew Allen of Westford Vermont, says to him, Sanders’ outspoken independence is an asset and he’s especially grateful to have it now with so much talk concerning war with Iraq:
(Allen) “Vermonters have always liked people that have spoken their minds and have voted with their conscience. And they vote for a guy who absolutely never has to kowtow to anyone, because his platform has basically been created on his own – starting in Burlington and moving into Washington. He’s the best thing that a small state could possibly have in D.C.”
(Keck) Sanders, the only independent member of the House of Representatives, was first elected to Congress in 1990. He says this term, he’ll fight hard to promote peace and avoid a war with Iraq. He says he’ll also push to bring attention back to the many domestic problems facing the country such as affordable health care and the loss of good paying jobs.
Sanders will take the weekend off and enjoy some down time with his family. But the break will be short. He’ll be back in Washington on Tuesday when Congress resumes its work on the federal budget.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck in Burlington.