Bernie Sanders and his wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, are very much in love. She has stood by him every step of the way, through an inspiring but difficult 2016 campaign, through the years in between, and then for his 2020 campaign for the Democratic ticket. Here’s what you need to know about their love story and how they met.
The First Met at Bernie’s Victory Party When He Was Elected Mayor of Burlington in 1981
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.
They ultimately met at Bernie’s victory party in 1981 after he was elected Mayor of Burlington, Vermont. She’s been right by his side on all his political ventures ever since. When he was elected to Congress in 1990, Jane became his chief of staff. She’s called the “wife-everythinger” because of how much work she does for his campaign.
Bernie and Jane Sanders have been married since 1988, seven years after they first met. At a town-hall event in Derry in 2016, Bernie was asked what his proudest moment was. He said it was being married to Jane for 27 years. He and Jane have four children (one from Bernie’s previous relationship and three from Jane’s previous marriage.) They consider each other’s children their own, and together they have seven grandchildren.
Bernie’s nine years older than Jane. When asked about his age when he was 75, Jane quickly responded: “75 is the new 55.”
Jane Almost Quit Politics Until She Heard Bernie Speak
Before they met, Jane was part of protests against the Vietnam War, but almost quit politics when President Richard Nixon was re-elected. 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.
They Grew Up 15 Blocks Away From Each Other But Didn’t Meet Until They Were Adults
Jane and Bernie were both born in Brooklyn and actually grew up 15 blocks away from each other, although they didn’t meet as children. 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 Doesn’t Want To Be a Candidate Herself, But She Loves Helping Bernie
Jane O’Meara Sanders has no interest in being a candidate herself though, Bloomberg reported. Instead, she just wants to be her husband’s partner. Bernie and Jane decided together that Bernie would run for president the first time in 2016. 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.
Jane talks to journalists a lot because nobody knows Bernie better than she does. She told Bloomberg that she speaks to journalists “just to offer a personal glimpse and to have people realize the three-dimensional person he is.”
Nothing makes Jane’s support more apparent than how she’s by his side not only in the exciting times, but in the difficult times too.
In July, after Bernie’s speech to his delegates at the DNC, Jane whispered something to him that could be heard over a hot mic. This was shortly after some boos were heard during Bernie’s speech. She wanted him to know that they weren’t booing him but were concerned about the roll call vote. She said: “They don’t know your name is being put in nomination. That’s what concerns.”
That 2016 Democratic National Convention brings up a lot of negative memories for Bernie supporters, but despite how tough the day was, Jane was still right by his side, helping him out and explaining what was happening with his supporters’ responses and why.
On the last day of the Democratic National Convention, his supporters cheered Bernie and Jane on as they walked back to their hotel on the morning of that last day. As they walked, supporters cheered: “This is what democracy looks like! Tell me what democracy looks like? This is what democracy looks like!”
“You’re my hero Bernie, thank you!” One supporter yelled, “We need you! We need your movement!”
And now she’s by his side again, for the 2020 run.