In a rare entry into local politics, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) leant his support Wednesday to Miro Weinberger, a Democrat running for mayor of Burlington.
Citing the need for all levels of government to focus on creating good jobs and affordable housing, Sanders said in a statement, “I am voting for Miro Weinberger for mayor of Burlington because I believe that he is the candidate best able to address these and other serious issues facing our city.”
An independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats, Sanders is widely revered by Progressives in Burlington, who have been slow to embrace Weinberger’s candidacy. Without a nominee of their own, Progressives have been split among the three candidates: Weinberger, Republican Kurt Wright and independent Wanda Hines.
"I'm extremely honored to have the support and confidence of Senator Sanders," Weinberger said in a statement. "Bernie, as much as anyone, knows what it takes to make Burlington a great city. With a fresh voice, the right experience, and a new vision, Burlington can continue to make the remarkable progress of our recent past."
Sanders pointed to Weinberger’s record as an affordable housing developer as a key reason he is backing the Democrat.
“I have been impressed by his private sector efforts to create environmentally sound mixed-use development,” Sanders said. “I have seen first hand his beautiful project in Richford which combines a locally-owned grocery store, a rural health center, a dental clinic, a pharmacy and affordable housing — just the kind of development Vermont needs.”
Dave Hartnett, a Democratic city councilor and Wright’s campaign manager, said Sanders’ endorsement was “not surprising.” He cited previous campaign events on behalf of Weinberger held by Gov. Peter Shumlin and Congressman Peter Welch, and a Washington, D.C., fundraiser featuring Sen. Patrick Leahy.
“That’s pretty much been the theme of his campaign, bringing in the big, Washington, D.C. politicians,” Hartnett said. “He went on a plane and raised thousands of dollars in D.C., so it’s not surprising he’s being endorsed by the big names in Washington, D.C.”
Hines did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The move, which has been rumored to be in the works for weeks, represents a further strengthening of the uneasy alliance between the independent senator and the state’s Democratic machine. Though ostensibly a man without a party, Sanders’ interests have long aligned with those of the Democrats, who have declined for years to field a serious opponent against him. Sanders, who faces reelection this fall, votes with Democrats on procedural matters and receives the Senate committee assignments he would if he were a member of the party.
Earlier this week, Weinberger received the support of Burlington’s Somali Bantu community and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local #300.
Disclosure: I used to work for Congressman Peter Welch.