Jane and Bernie Sanders are a power couple with their eyes on the White House, but they have a very different dynamic than Bill and Hillary Clinton. Jane has said she’s not interested in politics for herself, she’s interested in supporting her husband all the way to the presidency. And she’s really putting her all into the campaign. Jane may very well be making more appearances to the press than any other presidential candidate’s spouse (except for Bill Clinton.) Their relationship is close and endearing, with Bernie often seen seeking out his wife after a political debate before he even answers reporters’ questions. Find out more about this power couple and what makes their relationship tick.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. They’re Not a “Two For One” Candidate, But She Makes Sure the Campaign Doesn’t Compromise His Ideals
Jane O’Meara Sanders has no interest in being a candidate herself someday, Bloomberg reported. Instead, she wants to be her husband’s partner. Doing so means that Jane stays well versed on politics and policy issues and talks frequently with voters. She even advises her husband on everything. She told Bloomberg that she does this “to ensure that his principles and ideals aren’t ever compromised by the campaign.”
She played this role when she helped shape an early cut of Bernie’s “America” ad, Burlington Free Press reported. The first cut showed many sunny images of Bernie’s packed rallies, along with clips of him speaking. Jane felt like the clips of Bernie took away from the mood, so she asked them to be cut because he’s talking all the time in other places. The ad is now a symbol of his grassroots political movement.
Bernie and Jane decided together that Bernie would run for president. At the time, she was worried about how hard it would be to deal with negative ads and innuendoes.
“It’s not nice to wake up with a knot in your stomach every day and not know what’s going to hit us today,” she told Bloomberg. But in the end, Bernie brought up that somebody has to do it. He said: “If not now when, and if not us, who?” And she agreed. They were all in.
2. She Speaks Often to the Press Because “Nobody Else Knows Bernie As Well”
Jane is front and center in Bernie’s campaign, always by his side and always supporting him. That’s also why she spends a lot of time talking to journalists and making press appearances. Aside from Bill Clinton, Jane may be the most camera-ready spouse of a presidential candidate. But she takes a very different approach from Bill Clinton, Burlington Free Press reported. Bill will sometimes go negative against Hillary’s opponents. Jane won’t do that. Instead, her focus is all about helping people really know who Bernie is and what he wants to do for the country.
She told Bloomberg that she speaks to journalists so often because she knows Bernie better than anyone else. She does this “Just to offer a personal glimpse and to have people realize the three-dimensional person he is.”
When Jane’s not in front of the camera, she’s helping Bernie prepare for debates, sometimes suggesting he be a little less gloomy and a little more upbeat in his speeches, Burlington Free Press reported. She also takes videos of his rallies on her iPhone and shares rare downtime moments with him while they’re traveling.
3. They Met at His Victory Party for Mayor And Jane Later Became His Chief of Staff
Jane first heard about Bernie when she went to a meeting with the previous Burlington mayor and started asking him questions because they weren’t getting any direct answers, according to The Hill. People at the meeting told her “You sound like Bernie Sanders now!” She had no idea who Bernie was, and they told her he was running for mayor so she suggested organizing a debate.
Bernie and Jane met at Bernie’s victory party in 1981 when he was elected Mayor of Burlington, Vermont. In 1988, they were married. When he was elected to Congress in 1990, Jane became his chief of staff. She then worked on ads and legislation for his office. Jane has an impressive background. She has a doctorate from Union Institute and was provost and interim president of Vermont’s Goddard College from 1996 to 1997. But her life hasn’t been without controversy. In 2004, she served as president of a small, private college called Burlington College. But by 2008, representatives of the Student Government became disenchanted with her, blaming her for an environment of censorship. Jane resigned in 2011, The Hill reported. Accusations surfaced recently she may have led to the school’s bankruptcy when she helped relocate it to a larger campus, according to an independent Vermont news source Seven Days.
Despite her career setback, Jane and Bernie have always been partners in the political world and this campaign, she said, has made them closer than they’ve ever been before. She’s called the “wife-everythinger” because of how much work she does for his campaign.
Before they met, Jane was part of protests against the Vietnam War, but almost quit politics when President Richard Nixon was re-elected. However, hearing Bernie turned her around. She says she learned the right way to be a public servant from him, Bloomberg reported. Bernie is similarly complimentary of his wife. He said that she’s not afraid to give him constructive criticism, Burlington Free Press reported. “She lets me have it if she thinks I made a mistake,” he has said, with the joke that this may happen every day.
4. Bernie Has Said That His Proudest Moment Is Being Married for 27 Years
At a town-hall event in Derry, Bernie was asked what his proudest moment was. He said it was being married to Jane for 27 years, Bloomberg reported. Bernie, 74, is nine years older than Jane and they were married in 1988. Jane has said that “75 is the new 55” when asked about his age.
They’re always together at all his engagements. She often joins him at the podium, giving him a kiss and a hug before or after an event. Together, the couple has four children and seven grandchildren: three from Jane’s first marriage and one from Bernie’s past relationship.
But she also helps keep him grounded. The two aren’t rich by any means. In fact, at a gala for Nelson Mandela, Bernie and Mandela were the only two men at the event who weren’t wearing tuxes. At a political rally, Bernie tossed his jacket to a crowd of cheering people. Jane had to later get his jacket back because he doesn’t own that many, Bloomberg reported.
5. Bernie and Jane Both Believe in Helping the Less Fortunate and Righting Injustices Because of Their Own Experiences
It’s their shared love of helping others that brought them together. Jane and Bernie were both born in Brooklyn and actually grew up 15 blocks away from each other, although they didn’t meet. Bernie grew up in a cramped, three-and-a-half room apartment, The Hill reported. When Jane was a child, her dad suffered health problems for years after breaking his hip. He couldn’t afford medical care until her brother earned enough money to help out, Burlington Free Press reported. Because of that experience, Jane wants others to not go through the same thing.
Jane recently spoke to the press about their beliefs when she appeared on MSNBC, Washington Examiner reported. She said the Clinton campaign didn’t have as bold of a vision for the future. Meanwhile, she and Bernie believed that you shouldn’t go bankrupt for a college education. The country needs to invest in young people to carry forward more bold ideas, she said.
The Huffington Post recently hailed Jane as the First Lady that America needs, because of her history and the struggles she’s had. She has said that she wants to find common ground with Republicans and that she thinks with empathy, with a desire to build bridges. Bernie shares the same sentiments. “Making things work” is their unofficial personal theme.