Sen. Bernie Sanders outside his Burlington home in June
Updated at 5:29 p.m.
After sitting on the sidelines for much of Vermont’s gubernatorial primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Thursday endorsed Democrat Sue Minter for governor.
“Sue Minter understands that the key for Vermont’s economic future is opening up higher education to all Vermonters, regardless of income,” Sanders said in a brief written statement. “That’s why, if elected governor, she will work to make community colleges and Vermont Tech tuition free.”
Sanders also announced his support for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Treasurer Beth Pearce, Secretary of State Jim Condos, Auditor Doug Hoffer and Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan, who is running to succeed retiring Attorney General Bill Sorrell.
The former presidential candidate “looks forward to campaigning with the statewide candidates in the near future,” spokesman Michael Briggs said in a statement. He provided no further details.
Sanders had previously endorsed Sen. David Zuckerman (P/D) for lieutenant governor, along with a slew of legislative candidates. But he had refused repeated entreaties to weigh in on the gubernatorial race. In the weeks before Vermont’s August primary, a Democratic rival of Minter’s, former state senator Matt Dunne, aggressively sought Sanders’ endorsement and touted himself as a candidate in his mold.
In recent weeks, Vermont Democrats have publicly complained about Sanders’ reluctance to embrace their ticket.
In the same story, Republican Governors Association spokesman Jon Thompson taunted Minter, saying, “Sue Minter and her mentor [incumbent governor] Peter Shumlin are so toxic, even Bernie Sanders wants nothing to do with them.”
For a much-anticipated endorsement, Sanders’ announcement Thursday was surprisingly low-key. He waited until 4:26 p.m. to release the news — and mentioned most of the Democratic candidates only in passing. He said nothing specific about Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), with whom he has served in Congress for 16 years and who is facing a challenge from Republican Scott Milne. Leahy endorsed former secretary of state Hillary Clinton over Sanders during the Democratic presidential primary.
Sanders only elaborated on his support for Minter and Donovan.
“T.J. Donovan understands that criminal justice is about more than just sending people to jail,” he said in the statement. “As attorney general he will help create a Vermont criminal justice system that focuses on preventing crime through early intervention, job training and educational opportunities for at-risk Vermonters.”