Sen. Bernie Sanders to Seek Reelection to Fourth Term

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) greets supporters in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 28, 2020, while running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced Monday that he is running for reelection this year, ending months of speculation over whether the second-oldest member of the Senate would retire or seek a fourth term.

In a statement, Sanders, 82, called the November election – which could also include a rematch between presumptive nominees President Biden and former president Donald Trump – “the most important national election in our lifetimes.”

“We must fight to make sure that we remain a democracy, not an authoritarian society,” Sanders said. He also stressed the election’s importance for “the working families of our country,” reproductive rights and climate change.

“The stakes are enormous. This is an election we must not lose,” he said.

In a lengthy video targeting his Vermont constituents, Sanders also touched on issues affecting his state, as well as his opposition to continuing to fund Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“Let me conclude by telling you what you already know: These are very difficult times for our country and the world,” Sanders said in the video.

Sanders, who twice ran for the Democratic nomination for president, is from solidly blue Vermont and would be nearing 90 years old at the end of another six-year term. The senator, who first joined the House in 1991, suffered a heart attack in 2019 during his second presidential run and had two stents inserted into a blocked artery.

But as chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, he has cut an energetic figure – shutting down an almost-physical altercation between a union leader and a senator with a wagging finger and grilling pharmaceutical CEOs last year. And the liberal movement he built and still leads says it is not ready for him to exit the political scene.

The self-described Democratic socialist has transformed the Democratic Party and U.S. politics over the course of his career, channeling grass-roots anger during his 2016 presidential run over worsening economic inequality and pushing centrist lawmakers such as Biden to embrace more sweeping measures to combat climate change and soaring health-care costs in 2020.

Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats, has continued to stake out some of the leftmost positions in the Senate in recent months. He became the first liberal senator to vote down military aid to Israel and forced the Senate to take a vote to require the State Department to look into potential human rights abuses perpetrated by the country in its war in Gaza.

Sanders has been closely eyeing the 2024 election and wants to do all he can to help prevent former president Donald Trump from beating Biden, several allies told The Washington Post this year. He would have more influence to do so as a senator running for reelection than as a lame duck, they pointed out.

Sanders opposed Biden in the 2020 Democratic primary, and after losing to him, he pushed the president to adopt positions closer in line with those espoused by his movement. Since Biden became president, however, Sanders has been a reliable ally to him. He recently broke with a liberal organization he founded, Our Revolution, when he declined to join their effort to get Democrats to vote “uncommitted” in the Michigan presidential primary to pressure Biden on his handling of the war in Gaza.

That decision – from a politician who has never been afraid to poke other Democrats to push them on policy – shows how concerned Sanders is about not weakening Biden ahead of what he sees as an existential presidential election in November, his allies said.

Sanders would probably be a valuable asset on the stump for Biden. Polls show Biden losing support among young voters, who were a key part of Sanders’s constituency when he ran for president. But Sanders has also faced some backlash of his own among the young progressives who rallied behind his presidential runs, after declining to call for a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel.

In 2018, Sanders handily won reelection to his third term with 67 percent of the vote. In 2020, Biden won Vermont with 66 percent of the vote to Trump’s 31 percent. Sanders is likely to face off against veteran-turned-business executive Gerald Malloy in the general election, who was the Republican nominee in 2022 when now-Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) was elected.