Levi Sanders, the son of Sen. Bernie Sanders, has just put up a website announcing his run for Congress in New Hampshire’s 1st District. Levi played a big role in his father’s campaign for President, serving as the Senior Political Strategist, and now he’s stepping out for his own race. He has a Facebook page for his campaign where he’ll also be sharing updates. Levi’s platform is quite similar to his dad’s, but he also is incredibly passionate about animal welfare. Levi and his wife, Raine, have three children adopted from China. Levi’s website announcement echoes many of his father’s ideals, including a push for Medicare for All. Here’s what you need to know about Levi Sanders.
1. Levi Was the Senior Political Strategist for Bernie’s Presidential Campaign
Levi Noah Sanders, 48, was born on March 21, 1969 at Brightlook Hospital in Johnsbury, Vermont to Bernie Sanders and Bernie’s then-girlfriend, Susan Mott. He is Bernie Sander’s only biological child. Levi has been part of Bernie’s campaign world since he was two-years-old and sitting on Bernie’s lap when his dad first raised his hand to run for office, The New York Times reported. When Bernie had to sell low-budget films to support himself while campaigning, he sometimes used Levi’s toy robot for sound effects. Then in 1987, when Bernie had a cable access show called Bernie Speaks, Levi even returned for the season finale, holding the mic in freezing rain.
When Sanders won the New Hampshire primary in February, Levi was standing next to him on stage, applauding his dad’s success. Levi is a big supporter of his dad, saying: “He is someone who gives hope that things can change. I could go on and on.” Levi is a political and legal analyst. He was the senior policy strategist for his dad’s presidential campaign, helping his dad every step of the way. He often shared updates about his dad’s campaign on his own Twitter page, advocating for his father’s platform.
2. Levi Has Spent Much of His Career Advocating for Clients Who Needed Social Security Benefits
For nearly 18 years, Levi has worked at Cambridge & Somerville Legal Services as a Social Security Senior Legal Analyst, according to his LinkedIn. He represents clients in cases at initial denial, reconsideration, and the administration law level. He’s an agency-wide advocate for all health and disability cases, seeking to help disabled people and others after they’ve been turned down by the system. His career echoes many of the sentiments in his campaign platform.
From 1994 to 2000, he was the general manager of Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf in the Vermont area. The video above was taken when he was assistant manager at the Burlington Emergency Food Shelf and was interviewed for a 2001 documentary. Levi has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon.
Before he made his announcement, Levi told Vice about the campaign: “I’m excited, motivated, and interested in the race. I’m just dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s.” Here’s what Levi wrote on his website when he announced his campaign run:
“After much thought and consultation with my family, friends, and the people of New Hampshire, I am excited to announce today that I am running for Congress in New Hampshire’s 1st District. This is a unique opportunity to listen to the hard working men and women of New Hampshire about the issues that matter to them.”
“The majority of voters in New Hampshire, and around this country, agree that we need a Medicare For All healthcare system which guarantees healthcare to every man, women, and child without out of pocket expenses. We need an educational system which says that whether you are rich or poor, you have the ability to go to a public college and/or university tuition free. We need to demand that we have a minimum wage which allows people to work forty hours a week without being in poverty. It is urgent that we address the opioid problem which is at a crisis level in New Hampshire. We must demand that women finally earn the same pay as men. It is unacceptable that we haven’t found the political courage to pass sensible gun legislation.”
“That time is up – we must be bold and unwavering in our fight for the people. For 15 years, New Hampshire has been my family’s home. For over 17 years, I have represented the working class who have been beaten up by the system. It is time to demand that we have a system which represents the 99% and not the 1% who have never had it so good. This campaign is about each and everyone of us, who strive each and everyday, to make this great state and country a better place in which to live.”
3. Levi’s Campaign Will Be Going Up Against At Least Seven Other Democrats
Levi will be seeking to replace Carol Shea-Porter, who has announced that she’s not seeking re-election. Shea-Porter’s seat is one of the Republican party’s top targets for 2018. Levi doesn’t live in the district; in the district where he lives, the incumbent is seeking re-election. He has, however, lived in New Hampshire for 15 years, according to his campaign’s website.
When asked about his politics versus his dad’s, he told Vice: “The basic difference is that I’m a vegetarian and he’s not.” His campaign stances will be very similar to Bernie’s, including free college tuition and Medicare for All.
But it won’t be an easy campaign, and it will likely be controversial. Seven Democrats are already running for New Hampshire’s 1st District, which regularly shifts from blue to red and back again. One of the Democrats’ main contenders is Chris Pappas. Meanwhile, some of Bernie’s supporters are lining up behind state Rep. Mark MacKenzie. It will remain to be seen what they do now that Levi has announced his bid.
Levi shared the above photo with President Obama on his Facebook page in 2012. He wrote: “This was he was a lowly United States senator… I was able to have a fifteen minute conversation with him until he was dragged away by a campaign manager from the Democratic party. Regardless of your political persuasion, the guy has charm.”
4. Levi Sanders’ Wife is a Neuropsychologist and They Adopted Three Children from China
Levi is married to Raine Riggs, a neuropsychologist whose studies include researching psychiatric syndromes connected to cancer diagnoses. They have adopted three children from China and live in New Hampshire.
He proudly shared a photo his wife took on Facebook and his wife jokingly commented, “Gee, your wife is a fabulous photographer. So talented, that lady!”
In 2015, Bernie proudly shared this photo on Instagram, showing him trick-or-treating with two of Levi’s children in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Levi wasn’t far behind.
Here’s another photo from that day, with Levi:
This isn’t Levi’s first foray into politics. When he was 40, he ran for the Claremont, New Hampshire City Council and finished seventh out of nine. But now that he’s had so much more exposure in national politics, he has a much stronger chance at the polls this time around.
5. He’s a Big Advocate for Animal Welfare
Just one glance at his Facebook page shows you that Levi Sanders cares about animal welfare. Nearly every public post is a petition seeking to bring to light a case where animals are not being treated ethically. Levi lives out his values by being a vegan. His recent shares include seeking to stop trophy hunting of black bears and getting petitions to make CCTV mandatory in all live animal transport vehicles. He also posted a petition seeking to boycott Larson Dairy for the inhumane treatment of animals, writing: “I was really disgusted at how these cows were treated. There is no excuse for this type of behavior.” In July he wrote: “We need to demand that animals be treated with respect and cared for, not abused.” He’s passionate about rallying other people to help stop the abuse and make permanent changes.
Levi isn’t the only member of Bernie’s family running for office this year. Bernie’s stepdaughter, Carina Driscoll, is running for mayor of Burlington, Vermont.