Sanders won’t endorse candidates in Democratic primary

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(Host) Congressman Bernie Sanders says he won’t endorse any Democratic presidential candidates during the primary campaign. But if former Governor Howard Dean wins the Democratic nomination, Sanders says he’ll enthusiastically endorse Dean in the general election.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) When Dean formally announced his candidacy on Monday afternoon on the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, the former governor praised all three members of the state’s congressional delegation. Senators Patrick Leahy and Jim Jeffords spoke at the event and endorsed Dean’s candidacy. However Sanders did not appear at the rally.

The congressman says there’s a good reason why he’s not endorsing Dean at this time:

(Sanders) “In terms of the Democratic primary the reality is, as you know, I am the only independent in the House of Representatives. I am not a Democrat and historically I have not made endorsements within the Democratic primary process. What I can say is that if Howard Dean becomes the Democratic nominee and continues to speak the language that he’s speaking now, I will be delighted to support him in the effort to defeat President Bush.”

(Kinzel) There have been reports that Sanders might endorse Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich in this race. Kucinich is a member of the House Progressive Caucus in Washington – a group that Sanders helped start more than 10 years ago. Sanders says these reports are wrong:

(Sanders) “That is not accurate. Dennis Kucinich is a very good friend of mine, he followed me as the chairman of the House Progressive Caucus. And, like Howard, I think he is running a very, very strong campaign, raising a lot of the important issues that have to be raised. But as I said for Governor Dean, I’ll say the same for Dennis Kucinich, is I’m not going to be jumping into the Democratic primary. But if Dennis or Howard becomes the nominee I will be there doing everything I can to defeat what I consider to be one of the most right wing administrations in the modern history of this country.”

(Kinzel) Sanders says he believes that Dean can beat President Bush in a general election race in 2004 by campaigning aggressively on issues that concern working families across the country.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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