- File: Jamie Gemmiti
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
In a written statement, Sanders lauded Balint, who has served in the state Senate since 2015, as someone who "does the work" as a "voice for rural Vermonters" and as a "champion for the working class."
The endorsement from one of the nation's most popular politicians comes at a crucial time in the race. Early voting has begun ahead of the August 9 primary. Balint and Lt. Gov. Molly Gray are considered the Democratic front-runners in the race, which is likely more competitive than November's general election will be. Also running for the Dem nomination are Sianay Chase Clifford, a former congressional aide, and Dr. Louis Meyers.
All four are scheduled to debate Wednesday night at 8 p.m. on WPTZ-TV.
- Sen. Becca Balint at a debate
Sanders spent 16 years as Vermont's U.S. representative before running in 2006 for the Senate seat he now holds. Several other members of Congress have also endorsed Balint, including U.S. Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; Jamie Raskin (D-Md.); Mark Pocan (D-Wis.); David Cicilline (D-R.I.); Ro Khanna (D-Calif.); and Mark Takano (D-Calif.).
Closer to home, Balint has the backing of environmentalist Bill McKibben, the Professional Fire Fighters of Vermont and the Vermont Building Trades Council. Former Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell has also backed Balint.
Dozens of state lawmakers have endorsed Balint, including Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale (D-Chittenden), a former rival for the U.S. House seat who dropped out of the race in May.
In a statement, Balint said it was "an incredible honor" to earn Sanders' support.
In an earlier interview, Carolyn Dwyer, a longtime Leahy campaign manager, said the outgoing senator has not traditionally weighed in on Democratic primaries.
Welch, too, has not endorsed either candidate.