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Who is Bernie Sanders?

Take a closer look at 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Born: September 8, 1941

Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York

Age on Inauguration Day:  79

Party affiliation: Independent in Senate, running for president as Democrat

Campaign website: berniesanders.com

Education: University of Chicago (Bachelor’s degree in political science)

Professions: Teacher, carpenter

Public office: Mayor of Burlington, Vermont (1981-1989); U.S. Representative from Vermont (1991-2007); U.S. Senator from Vermont (2007-present)

Personal: Married Deborah Shiling in 1964 and divorced two years later. Met Susan Mott in 1968 and never married but had a son, Levi. Married Jane O'Meara in 1988 who had three children from a previous marriage.

Life and career:

  • Identifies in the Senate as an independent. However, he primarily works and votes with Democrats. He is the longest-serving independent in congressional history.
  • Unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, finishing behind Hillary Clinton.
  • Campaigned for a $15 per hour national minimum wage, free college tuition, Medicare for All and battling climate change. Often repeated a statistic that the top 0.1 percent of U.S. households hold the same amount of wealth as the bottom 90 percent – a claim Politifact rated as “mostly true.”
  • Campaign made a point to raise majority of funds from small, individual donations rather than relying on political action committees. Sanders raised nearly $135 million (57.7 percent of total funds) from individual donations of under $200.
  • Personally made the motion for delegates to accept Clinton as the nominee at the Democratic National Convention. The move was seen as an effort by Sanders to unify the party. The Democratic National Committee was dealing with accusations the nomination process was rigged to favor Clinton – something former DNC interim chair Donna Brazile later claimed was true. There was concern those faithful to Sanders might not back Clinton in the general election.
  • His 2016 campaign has come under scrutiny for allegations that some staffers engaged in sexual misconduct and women were paid less. Sanders said he was not aware of the allegations but vowed to do better in his current campaign.
  • Participated in the 1963 March on Washington.
  • Applied for conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War, drawing criticism in the 2016 campaign. A Sanders campaign spokesman told ABC News Sanders was a pacifist in the 1960s but is not now. Sanders’ objector request was denied, but by then, he reportedly was too old to be drafted.

Sources: Congress.gov; Biography.com; Britannica.com; Politico; CNN; Mother Jones; New York Times


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