Sanders Snags 'Run Warren Run' Boss to Lead N.H. Campaign | Off Message

Bernie Sanders
Sanders Snags 'Run Warren Run' Boss to Lead N.H. Campaign


Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at Dartmouth College last fall. - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at Dartmouth College last fall.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has signed on veteran New Hampshire labor organizer Kurt Ehrenberg to help him win the Granite State's first-in-the-nation presidential primary. 

The hire is a coup for Sanders, who has struggled to generate the enthusiasm enjoyed by fellow progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Until last week, Ehrenberg served as state director of Run Warren Run, a group founded by the national progressive groups and Democracy for America to persuade Warren to enter the Democratic primary.

The former New Hampshire AFL-CIO political and legislative director calls himself a longtime Sanders supporter and says he informally advised the senator's early exploratory efforts in New Hampshire. After spending the past four months unsuccessfully attempting to draft Warren, Ehrenberg formally joined the Sanders campaign last Wednesday. 

"The Elizabeth Warren draft effort was a terrific idea, and I'm glad we did our best to try to get her in the race," Ehrenberg says. "I think many people still have hope that she will run, but I think the chances are less every day and every time she says she's not running. So I think we should begin to take her at her word."

Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs confirmed the hire Tuesday, saying Ehrenberg would serve as New Hampshire field director. 

In a February profile, the Boston Globe described Ehrenberg as a "soft spoken" operative who has "maintained a tenacious presence in New Hampshire politics for the better part of three decades." Prior to the AFL-CIO, he worked for the New Hampshire chapter of the Sierra Club. 

Ehrenberg says he is currently Sanders' only paid staffer in New Hampshire. He is on the hunt for office space in Manchester and is organizing the senator's Wednesday trip to the Granite State, following his Tuesday evening campaign kickoff at Burlington's Waterfront Park.

During an event in Portsmouth, N.H., former New Hampshire Senate majority leader Burt Cohen will introduce Sanders and formally endorse him. 

"Bernie's the guy. He's for real. What he says is not poll-driven," Cohen says. 

Ehrenberg says he got to know Sanders from organizing New Hampshire AFL-CIO events at which the Vermonter has spoken. 

"Sen. Sanders for over 30 years has been the leading progressive in this country," he says. "He's championed issues of income inequality, student loan debt, reining in the billionaires on Wall Street, sticking up for average working people and committing to rebuilding a strong middle class in America, which is totally necessary if we're going to have a strong economy that works for all Americans."

According to Democracy for America executive director Charles Chamberlain, Run Warren Run will continue on without Ehrenberg. The organization still has an office in New Hampshire and employs staff on the ground, he says.

"Kurt is a veteran of New Hampshire electoral politics who was already excited about Bernie's campaign before Run Warren Run, so we weren't surprised by and entirely understood his decision to join the campaign now that they're hiring,” Chamberlain said in a written statement. “Staff changes are a part of a presidential politics, and like any other campaign we'll figure out who will replace Kurt in the days and weeks ahead."

Democracy for America was founded by former governor Howard Dean and is based in Burlington. Dean himself has endorsed former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.