Sanders Endorsees Decline to Return the Favor | Off Message

Bernie Sanders
Sanders Endorsees Decline to Return the Favor


Rep. Peter Welch, Margaret Cheney, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Jane Sanders, Marcelle Leahy and Sen. Patrick Leahy on Election Day 2014 in Burlington. - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Rep. Peter Welch, Margaret Cheney, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Jane Sanders, Marcelle Leahy and Sen. Patrick Leahy on Election Day 2014 in Burlington.
When Democrat Peter Shumlin was locked in a close race with Republican Brian Dubie in 2010, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pitched in by holding a series of rallies that helped Shumlin win the open seat.

When Democrat Miro Weinberger was vying to become mayor of Burlington in 2012, Sanders’ endorsement helped the politically untested Weinberger follow Sanders to City Hall.

What thanks does Sanders get?

Both men are endorsing Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president.

Certainly, endorsements from Vermont's governor and Burlington's mayor wouldn't put Sanders over the top in the race to the White House, but what ever happened to friends looking out for friends? Both Shumlin and Weinberger say nice things about Sanders, but when it comes to choosing a candidate they have both committed to the Democratic front-runner.

Gov. Peter Shumlin on Election Day in Burlington - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Gov. Peter Shumlin on Election Day in Burlington
“Bernie and I are great friends,” Shumlin said Thursday. “I think he’s an extraordinary U.S. senator and I’m really happy that Vermont has him and I’m happy he’s running for president.”

He followed that with a very big but: “My belief is that the most qualified candidate running for president who’s going to fight for the middle class and who understands the challenge of foreign policy is Hillary Clinton,” Shumlin said.

"We all understand that that’s what primaries are about. It doesn’t diminish the importance of our friendships."

He noted that he’s also friends with former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, another likely presidential candidate, from their days serving in the leadership of the Democratic Governors Association.

In Shumlin’s case, you can readily make the argument that he would not be governor today without Sanders’ help. The two went on a late-October campaign tour in 2010 after Shumlin emerged from a five-way Democratic primary. They hit Democratic strongholds, such as Burlington, but also more conservative locales, such as St. Albans and Rutland, where Sanders fares surprisingly well.

In 2014, when Shumlin barely won reelection, Sanders was there to help again, co-hosting a series of campaign rallies.

Next Tuesday, when Sanders holds his own campaign rally, Shumlin won’t be there.

“I want that to be Bernie’s day,” the governor said.

Weinberger, who still presides over the city Sanders once ran, will also not be at Sanders' 5 p.m. waterfront campaign kickoff. He will instead be speaking at a Vermont Alzheimer’s Association dinner that evening.

"I am supporting Hillary Clinton for president," Weinberger said Thursday. "I believe Hillary is the right person at the right time to effectively lead our country forward."

But where’s the love for the guy who once helped him?

"I have great respect and appreciation for Bernie and what he has accomplished in his remarkable career,” Weinberger said. “Bernie was one of the most effective mayors to serve Burlington, and Vermont has been fortunate to benefit from Bernie's leadership in both the United States House and Senate. Bernie's passion and bold ideas will be good for Vermont and for our country."

OK, so what’s going on here? These guys, plus Sen. Patrick Leahy and former governors Howard Dean and Madeleine Kunin, are all firmly in the Clinton camp. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) has not endorsed a candidate. Is there some code by which mainstream Democrats are not allowed to support the independent upstart?

Not so, said state Rep. Mary Sullivan (D-Burlington), who is on the Democratic State Committee. “I’m a Bernie-backer,” Sullivan said. She plans to attend Sanders' kickoff. 

Lots of Vermont Democrats, even those supporting Clinton, are excited to see Sanders shake up the race, Sullivan said.