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At Burlington Airport, Vermonters Welcome Sanders Home

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As Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) chartered jet landed in South Burlington late Wednesday, Joe Ament stood at a nearby intersection, waving a campaign sign at passing motorists. 

“I just want to welcome Bernie home,” the Burlington graduate student said. “So he knows that he’s loved and missed — and to tell him to keep on going to the convention.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Jane O’Meara Sanders arrive Wednesday in South Burlington. - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders and Jane O’Meara Sanders arrive Wednesday in South Burlington.
After losing California on Tuesday and watching rival Hillary Clinton declare herself the Democratic presidential nominee, Sanders faced pressure Wednesday from top Democrats who urged him to stand down. But Ament and the roughly 80 other supporters who lined Williston Road seemed inclined to see Sanders stick it out.

“The superdelegates haven’t voted yet,” Ament said. “It’s obviously very steep, but if you believe in democracy you wait until everyone’s voted.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders arrives in South Burlington Wednesday. - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders arrives in South Burlington Wednesday.
Sanders himself didn’t tip his hand Wednesday.

After landing at Burlington International Airport that evening, he bypassed a horde of reporters gathered outside the Heritage Aviation terminal and focused his attention instead on a group of supporters standing across the street. He shook hands and posed for photos, then declared, “Alright, go home. It’s cold!”

The presidential candidate and his wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, hopped in a gray Suburban and traveled a short distance down Aviation Avenue to the intersection where Ament had been waving his sign. The two, surrounded by Secret Service agents, hopped out again and worked their way down the line of supporters, addressing each individually. Then they drove off into the night.

Vermonters welcome Sen. Bernie Sanders home Wednesday in South Burlington. - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Vermonters welcome Sen. Bernie Sanders home Wednesday in South Burlington.
Sanders won’t stay long in Burlington. He plans to fly Thursday morning to Washington, D.C., where he’s scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) — and headline a rally at RFK Stadium. 

Speaking late Tuesday in California, Sanders vowed to fight on through next week’s primary in D.C. — the final election in the Democratic nominating contest. But Obama is expected to join other party leaders in persuading Sanders to clear a path for Clinton. Several of the Vermonter’s top congressional allies, including Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), made clear Wednesday that they thought the race had come to an end.

Vermonters welcome Sen. Bernie Sanders home Wednesday in South Burlington. - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Vermonters welcome Sen. Bernie Sanders home Wednesday in South Burlington.
Kaitlin Abare disagreed. The Seattle project manager had traveled home to Burlington to visit her mother, retired teacher Diane Abare, and the two decided to take part in the Sanders rally. They stood near Ament, holding a cardboard sign featuring the words, “Welcome home!”

“We think he still needs to continue pushing his platform at the convention. He’s had a lot of supporters putting time, effort and votes in — and they should be represented at the convention,” Kaitlin Abare said. “There’s always hope.”

Though many observers hailed Clinton’s success as a milestone for gender equity, Abare appeared nonplussed.

“I want the best nominee — someone who represents what I believe in — and I don’t care if they’re a male or a female,” she said.

“Trump has reddish hair,” the redhead added, referring to presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump. “That doesn’t mean I’d support him.”

Vermonters welcome Sen. Bernie Sanders home Wednesday in South Burlington. - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Vermonters welcome Sen. Bernie Sanders home Wednesday in South Burlington.
Burlington resident Jennifer Tornabe, who attended the event with her two children and her parents, said she wouldn’t support Trump or Clinton. 

“I can’t vote for anyone else; I’m probably going to write [Sanders’] name in,” she said. “I don’t want the lesser of two evils.”

James Buck contributed reporting.


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