By Elizabeth Hewitt, VTDigger
Sen. Bernie Sanders said Sunday he would run for the U.S Senate next year as an independent, not as a Democrat.
On Monday, the senator sought to downplay his weekend remarks and claimed he had not decided yet whether to run.
However, Sanders told reporters in New Hampshire on Sunday that he would seek re-election to his Senate seat running as an independent, which Sanders has traditionally done. He made the comment after being asked if he would run for re-election as a Democrat, the party flag he ran under when he campaigned for the presidential nomination in 2016.
“I am an independent, and I have always run in Vermont as an independent, while I caucus with the Democrats in the United States Senate and that’s what I’ve been doing for a long time and that’s what I’ll continue to do,” Sanders said in a clip posted on Twitter by an NH1 News reporter.
“So you’ll run in 2018 as an independent?” the reporter asked.
“Yeah,” Sanders said.
On Monday, Sanders maintained he had not announced plans to seek re-election with his comments, but stating that if he were to run, he would not run as a Democrat.
“Obviously, the people of Vermont will be the first to learn about my 2018 political decision, a decision I will announce within the next several months,” Sanders said.
Newsweek, Huffington Post and The Hill all reported the story as the senator announcing he would seek a third Senate term. Sanders, 76, said his comments had been misunderstood.
“All that I said to a New Hampshire reporter is something that I have said many, many times before. And that is that if I seek re-election to the U.S. Senate, I will do it in exactly the same way I have done in the past,” he said. “As the longest serving Independent in the history of the U.S. Congress, I will appear on the ballot in the general election as an Independent should I decide to run again. Nothing new here.”
Sanders’ popularity during his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination fueled speculation that he might give up his “independent” status and run under the party’s banner. Sanders lost the nomination to Hillary Clinton, who lost the general election to Republican Donald Trump.
The Democratic National Committee considered a resolution at a party meeting in Las Vegas last week that would have urged Sanders and his fellow Senate independent, Angus King of Maine, to officially affiliate with the party. The resolution was defeated.
Sanders has plenty of campaign funds on hand and the account has been growing, according to Federal Election Commission filings. As of the end of September, Sanders had $5.9 million cash in hand, and took in nearly $2 million in donations in the summer quarter.