BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — People in this lakeside city that Bernie Sanders helped transform as mayor before embarking on a career in Congress are proud of the mark he’s left in the 2016 presidential race even as they recognize that his White House bid is almost certainly going to fall short.
The senator returned to Burlington, his hometown, after a week of major developments in the campaign: Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic nomination, President Barack Obama endorsed her after meeting with Sanders at the White House, and the party kept up efforts to ease Sanders from the race while trying not to offend his many supporters.
Sanders was largely staying out of public view this weekend, though he was booked on some Washington-based news shows on Sunday and his campaign spokesman, Michael Briggs, said Sanders and his wife, Jane, invited “a couple dozen key supporters and advisers from around the country to come to Burlington to share ideas.”
Briggs said he expected “a lot of thoughtful discussion among smart people and good friends.”
Sanders was expected to return to Washington for Tuesday’s primary in the District of Columbia, the final one on the nomination calendar. In an email Saturday to supporters, Sanders reminded them of their “chance to stand up and be heard.” His message ended: “I thank you for everything you’ve shared with me and all the support you’ve given our campaign. Now it’s time to bring it home on Tuesday.”
Sanders hasn’t said he would quit the race, but after meeting with Obama, he made clear he would do everything he could to stop presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump from winning the White House.
Sarah Mandl, 26, of Ithaca, New York, who attended the University of Vermont and spends summers in the state, said she was surprised and happy that Sanders made it as far as he did in the Democratic race, and continues to try to get out his message “even though he knows he’s not going to be president.”
People in Burlington are familiar with Sanders and the message of social justice that he has promoted since before he was elected mayor in 1981. Many credit him with helping make Burlington the vibrant, multicultural small city that it is today, and are thrilled to see his message gain so much attention.
“He’s raised some questions both the Democrats and the Republicans have to answer,” said Dan McAllister, 60, a clergyman from South Burlington who was manning a booth for a friend’s church not far from Sanders’ Senate and campaign offices.
Don Dresser, 65, a retired postmaster from Huntington was wearing a “Bernie” sticker on his shirt. He said that during a recent visit to Spain he talked politics with a German couple and they knew of Sanders.
“They were very enthusiastic about Bernie,” Dresser said.
“Where does he go from here?” Dresser said. “I’m not sure, but I think he’s hopefully going to go to the Democratic convention and press things for his agenda. I mean he’s been speaking on the same thing since I came here in the mid-70s.”