In what is is likely Bernie Sanders’ first endorsement from a Senator, Sen. Patrick Leahy has shared that he is backing Bernie Sanders’ bid for the presidency. Leahy is the senior United States Senator from Vermont. He was first elected to the position in 1974.
Leahy’s endorsement wasn’t automatically assumed, just because he and Sanders are from the same state. In fact, in 2016 Leahy had endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. Some Sanders supporters are hoping this indicates a shift in alliances overall and a sign that Sanders might pick up more endorsements this year from people who had endorsed Clinton in 2016.
The Boston Herald reported that Leahy said in a statement: “Bernie’s entry makes the field even stronger… [Sanders is] a proven leader with a strong message.”
As an interesting trivia note, Sanders challenged Leahy in 1974 for an open Senate seat and got 4 percent of the vote.
Pretty sure this is Sanders' first senatorial endorsement of the cycle. https://t.co/doOHOd9Dxl
— Paul Heintz (@paulheintz) February 19, 2019
Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont has also supported Sanders’ announcement. He said in a statement that Sanders was a “welcome voice in this campaign,” Seven Days VT reported.
Leahy also shared with Seven Days VT: “Bernie and I had a great talk today. I’m proud to support my fellow Vermonter, a proven leader with a strong message.”
The Associated Press noted that Leahy’s decision is a shift from his 2016 position, when he endorsed Clinton. Leahy has pledged to back Sanders this time around.
Leahy’s endorsement of Clinton in 2016 came as a surprise to some people. At the time, he told MSNBC: “I talked to her about this some time ago and said if she’d like my support, she’s welcome to it.” Leahy had actually supported Clinton all the way back in 2012, USA Today noted, when they traveled to Haiti together.
His support was especially controversial because he was a superdelegate. For 2020, superdelegates in the DNC have much less power than they did in 2016. In April 2016, Leahy reiterated his support for Clinton after being pressured to support his fellow Vermont Senator, USA Today reported. He said, “I will be at the convention and … I fully expect to support our nominee. I’m a lifelong Vermonter. The biggest part of my reputation is keeping my word. I don’t break my word. But I will vote for the … candidate who has the most pledged delegates, and I assume well before the convention we’ll know who that is.”
Sanders had won 86.1 percent of the vote in Vermont, and his supporters believed that Vermont’s superdelegates should have cast their vote for him in the Democratic National Convention because of it. Four Vermont superdelegates (including Leahy) supported Clinton, while Rep. Peter Welch endorsed Sanders. Leahy pledged to vote for the candidate with the most delegates overall, not the candidate who won the primary in Vermont.
President Donald Trump’s campaign spokesperson, Kayleigh McEnany, has already responded to Sanders’ announcement, writing: “Bernie Sanders has already won the debate in the Democrat primary, because every candidate is embracing his brand of socialism. But the American people will reject an agenda of sky-high tax rates, government-run health care and coddling dictators like those in Venezuela. Only President Trump will keep America free, prosperous and safe.”
Sanders has already broken records since he announced he was running for President. In less than four hours, he got more than $1 million donations from all 50 states, already beating Kamala Harris’ 24-hour record when she announced, The Daily Beast reported.