Sanders Independent candidacy differs from Lieberman’s

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(Host) Vermont’s Bernie Sanders is running for the Senate as an Independent.

Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman is also running as an Independent. But that may be where the similarity ends.

VPR’s Chad Pergram has more from Capitol Hill.

(Pergram) Politicians are what they say they are. And there’s no question as to “what” is Bernie Sanders.

(Sanders) “I have always run as an Independent. I ran and won four times as mayor of Burlington and I ran and won eight times for the United States Congress.”

(Pergram) Yet Sanders scored the unanimous endorsement of the 48-member Vermont Democratic State Committee. Democratic Vermont Senator, Patrick Leahy says that’s a big deal.

(Leahy) “You have to understand Vermont Democrats. We rarely do anything unanimous. We couldn’t even get unanimous order for lunch to say nothing about endorsement.”

(Pergram) And it doesn’t stop there, says Bernie Sanders.

(Sanders) “In Vermont we’re very pleased to have the strong support of the Democratic Senate Committee – Senator Leahy, Senator Reid.”

(Pergram) It’s not surprising for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and others to champion Sanders cause.

After all, in the House, Sanders caucused with the Democrats for years. But what’s different is that the National Democratic Apparatus is backing Sanders Independent bid for the Senate, yet refusing to endorse the Independent campaign of Connecticut Senator Joe Liebermen. Lieberman lost the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont.

The senator made his first appearance in a month at the Capitol last week as the Senate returned to session after its summer break.

(Pergram) “Do you think that the Democrats are treating you one way versus the way they’re treating Bernie Sanders, who is running for the Senate as an Independent?”
(Liebermen) “Of all the things I’ve thought about in the last three weeks – that’s no one. So, Bernie, I presume, though he calls himself and Independent, is the Democratic candidate. So I understand the rules of the game.”

(Pergram) So there are questions why Democrats favor the Independent candidacy of Sanders over the Independent candidacy of Lieberman.

(Poresch) “I don’t think it’s a question of having it two ways. We’re going to make sure that in each of those cases that both candidates win.”

(Pergram) That’s J.B. Poresch. He runs the Democratic Senatorial campaign committee. His job is to elect Senate Democrats in the most competitive electoral environment in 12 years.

(Poersch) “Bernie Sanders is a known quantity. People know him as an Independent who’s been standing up for some of the same values the Democratic party stands for for many years. I think Vermont voters trust him and I think he’s going to win in November.”

(Pergram) Middlebury College political scientist Bert Johnson says there’s a reason Democrats are trying to have it both ways.

(Johnson) “Parties in general are quite pragmatic. They like to support someone who’s most likely to win.”

(Pergram) Senator Patrick Leahy says Sanders’ situation is different from what’s happened in Connecticut.

(Leahy) “If he had run in a Democratic primary and lost, then the Party would be supporting the Democrat.”

(Pergram) Both Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman plan to caucus with the Democrats if they win. And Democrats would be hard pressed to quibble about that if they secure control of the Senate for the first time since 1994.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Chad Pergram on Capital Hill.

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