Levi Sanders, Sen. Bernie Sanders only biological child, told VICE News that he is actively considering running for Congress in New Hampshire’s 1st District, an open seat expected to be one of the most contested in the country in 2018.
“Oh absolutely, I’m definitely considering it. I’m excited, motivated, and interested in the race,” Levi said. “I’m just dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s.”
The 48-year-old Levi said that he would run on a similar platform of Medicare for all and free college tuition that animated his father’s presidential run in 2016, when the the elder Sanders beat Hillary Clinton by 22 points in New Hampshire, 60.4 to 38 percent.
"The basic difference is that I’m a vegetarian and he’s not,” Levi said of his father, adding that despite their policy similarities he would run his own campaign. Levi said he has talked to his dad about the race but declined to elaborate.
It’s unclear how involved his father’s political apparatus would be. When asked about Levi’s potential congressional bid, Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign manager Jeff Weaver told VICE News that he “really doesn’t know much [about the race], to be honest with with you.”
Levi has been around for every race his father has ever run, as documented here by The New York Times, and served as a senior policy strategist for the presidential campaign. He also works as an advocate for people trying to obtain Social Security benefits. But this isn’t Levi’s first bid for political office: Eight years ago, he ran for city council in Claremont, New Hampshire,and lost.
But in keeping with family tradition, Levi’s potential run has upset a lot of other Democrats.
In New Hampshire’s 1st District, seven Democrats are already running and raising money to succeed Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, who’s retiring. Her seat is one of the Republican Party’s top targets in 2018, as the district regularly swings from blue to red. Donald Trump received more votes than Hillary Clinton in the district in 2016.
The Democratic Party’s establishment has a handsome, polished successor for the district in Chris Pappas, and some of Bernie’s supporters are also backing state Rep. Mark MacKenzie, one of Bernie’s earliest supporters in the 2016 New Hampshire presidential primary. The state political director for Bernie’s presidential campaign is now working for MacKenzie.
Plus, as Sanders’ detractors are eager to point out, he doesn’t live in the district.
Still, it’s a sign of the power of the Sanders name in New Hampshire that just the prospect of Levi running has spooked Democratic officials in the state.
“Given how well Bernie did in the New Hampshire primary and how well known he is here, it will give him some instant visibility and make the race even more interesting,” said Dean Spiliotes, a professor at Southern New Hampshire University and an expert in the state’s politics.
“Whether he’s able to turn it into on the ground organization, it’s hard to know.”
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PHOTO: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders arrives with his wife Jane (L) and son Levi (rear) at a rally Burlington, Vermont March 1, 2016. REUTERS- Brian Snyder.