Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has officially turned down the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, according to the Vermont Secretary of State's Office.
Sanders, who took home nearly 91 percent of the vote in last week's Democratic primary, informed the state last Friday that he would decline the nomination, according to elections director Will Senning. Neither the candidate nor the Secretary of State's Office announced the move at the time, though it hardly comes as a surprise.
A longtime independent, Sanders has sought the Democratic nomination since he first ran for the Senate in 2006, in order to prevent another candidate from taking the ballot line. Each time he has declined the nomination upon winning it. His staff made clear from the start of this year's campaign that this time would be no different.
On Tuesday, the Sanders campaign sent a second letter to the Secretary of State’s Office turning down the Vermont Progressive Party’s nomination. While Sanders did not appear on the Progressive primary ballot, he received enough write-in votes — 434 — to win that party’s nomination, too.
"Senator Sanders is very proud that almost 91% of Vermont Democrats cast their ballots for him last Tuesday," campaign manager Shannon Jackson said in a statement Tuesday. "They know he is fighting every day for them and their families."
Jackson said his boss would “continue to vigorously support Democratic candidates up and down the ballot in Vermont and across the country who are standing up against the disastrous Trump administration and fighting for economic, racial, social and environmental justice.”
The Vermont Democratic Party appeared ready for the candidate's decision. In a statement issued last Thursday, the day before Sanders turned down the nomination, VDP spokesperson R. Christopher Di Mezzo called the senator "a powerful voice for Democratic values, issues and candidates." He said the party expected Sanders to decline the nomination but would nevertheless "fully and enthusiastically endorse" him at its September state committee meeting.
"With or without the Democratic label next to his name on the ballot, Bernie Sanders is our candidate for U.S. Senate," Di Mezzo said.
Other Democrats have been less forgiving. When Sanders sought the party's presidential nomination in 2016, detractors criticized his longstanding unwillingness to run with a "D" after his name.
“He isn't a Democrat — that's not a smear, that's what he says,” wrote Sanders’ rival for the nomination, Hillary Clinton, in her post-campaign book, What Happened, adding, “I am proud to be a Democrat and I wish Bernie were too.”
Sanders' supporters have noted that he caucuses with Senate Democrats, votes for its majority leader candidates and even serves in its leadership structure.
H. Brooke Paige, a perennial candidate for statewide office, narrowly secured the Republican nomination to challenge Sanders, with 26.5 percent of his party’s vote. But Paige, who won five other nominations last week, has said he may decline one or more of them.