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Sanders Delegates From 2016 Want Another Shot At White House In 2020

Sen. Bernie Sanders takes the stage on the first night of the 2016 Democratic National Convention before a crowd of people holding blue Bernie signs.
John Locher
Associated Press File
Sen. Bernie Sanders takes the stage on the first night of the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Some Sanders delegates from two years ago are hoping he wins the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.

Sen. Bernie Sanders didn't win the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, but some of his supporters from two years ago are hoping he'll reboot his candidacy for the next presidential election.

At the nominating convention in Philadelphia two years ago, he received the loudest reception of any candidate to take the stage that week. And in his speech to delegates from around the country, Sanders did not sound like a man defeated.

“Together my friends we have begun a political revolution to transform America,” Sanders said. “And that revolution, our revolution, continues.”

As a Sanders delegate herself, Jericho resident Maria Rinaldi was there for that speech. And she says she knows precisely how she’d like to see that revolution continue.

A vertical blue sign with white text that says Vermont at the 2016 Democratic National Convention among a crowd of people.
Credit Emily Alfin Johnson / VPR File
VPR File
The Vermont sign at the Democratic National Convention in 2016. Many of the Vermont delegates for Bernie Sanders from the 2016 convention say they think he'd make an even better presidential candidate in 2020.

“I think we all since we left the convention have been waiting for Bernie to announce,” Rinaldi says. “We know that sounds crazy, but we were hoping we would get another shot at it.”

Politically at least, it’s been dark days for Rinaldi ever since Donald Trump ascended to the presidency. And as she eyes the 2020 landscape looking for signs of hope, she says there’s still only one place she can find it.

“Well at this point there really isn’t anyone that I think could beat Trump but Bernie Sanders,” Rinaldi says.

Sanders is already laying the groundwork for another presidential campaign. But one big question looms over his potential candidacy: Can the 77-year-old senator from Vermont recapture the magic that nearly won him the Democratic nomination in 2016?

Rinaldi says the senator never lost it. And many of the Vermont delegates for Sanders from 2016 feel similarly.

“We’re all in the same club, you know,” says Jo Sabel Courtney. “We have reunions. We all love each other. It’s so funny.”

Sabel Courtney, a Burlington resident, is one of the many Sanders delegates praying for another shot at the White House. And she says she thinks Sanders is better positioned now than he was when he launched his first run back in 2015.

"He's got the wind at his back ... He has amassed a revolution, an army." — Jo Sabel Courtney, Sanders delegate in 2016

“Because he’s got the wind at his back, because ... he has amassed a revolution, an army,” Sabel Courtney says. “I mean, look what just happened with the Yemen vote. He’s making headway in the things that we want to see happen. And I would hate to see that come to a skidding halt.”

Sanders may be the "lion of the left," but as the New York Times put it recently, he is “not the only one roaring.”

A recent Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll of likely Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa found former Vice President Joe Biden leading the pack of possible contenders. Sanders was 13 points behind him in second place.

And other polls have suggested liberal voters might be looking for some new blood.

“The news media are talking about how there are all these new faces and Beto O’Rourke and so forth,” says Norman Solomon, national coordinator for the Bernie Delegates Network back in 2016. “We’re not seeing that. We’re getting a tremendous amount of enthusiasm from former Bernie Sanders delegates about, and hoping for, Bernie running again.”

"We're getting a tremendous amount of enthusiasm from former Bernie Sanders delegates about, and hoping for, Bernie running again." — Norman Solomon, Bernie Delegates Network

The Bernie Delegates Network recently voted to relaunch the organization in advance of 2020. And Solomon, a 2016 Sanders delegate from northern California, says its members are ready to unleash the same grassroots apparatus that was so critical to Sanders’ ascension in 2016.

“They want to be engaged in supporting Bernie if he does run again, and personally I certainly hope that he does,” Solomon says. “A lot of that base is more activated now than it was back in 2016.”

That base though isn’t a monolith. And even some of Sanders’ most diehard supporters from 2016, like Canaan resident Martha Allen, aren’t quite ready to commit to him in 2020.

“I would love Bernie to continue and do his work, but I think I just want to hear from some of these other people,” Allen says.

Allen says her main priority is re-taking the White House. If Sanders proves himself the best candidate to do that, she says she’ll be behind him all the way. But she says Democrats will need to choose wisely.

The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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