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US Sen. Bernie Sanders announces Senate re-election bid

Independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders said Monday he will run for re-election on an agenda that would prioritize working families.

The campaign said Sanders would kick off his re-election bid with a series of rallies across Vermont next month.

Sanders, who is among the list of possible contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, said he looks forward to continue serving Vermonters and hopes that Democrats in 2018 will be able to flip control of the House and Senate.

“2018 is the most important midterm election in our lifetimes. We have a House and Senate controlled by right wing extremists,” Sanders told The Associated Press Monday. “I will do everything I can in 2018 to end one party rule over this country.”

Sanders said he expects to spend a “great deal” of time in Vermont, but added he will also campaign for liberals across the country.

The 76-year-old Sanders was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving as Vermont’s sole U.S. representative for 16 years. Previously, he served as the mayor of Burlington. A political independent, Sanders has caucused with the Democrats in Congress.

Sanders added that he believes that his ideals are now the ideals of the Democratic Party and that once-contentious ideas, such as a national Medicare for all single-payer program, are more popular than ever.

Sanders is credited with starting a national movement when he challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. His campaign, where he pushed a liberal agenda and ran to the left of Clinton, garnered 43 percent of the Democratic primary vote.

Since then, he has emerged as a prominent critic of Trump administration policies. He has also encouraged the Democratic Party to field more liberal candidates.

Jose Aguayo, the treasurer of a food cooperative in Montpelier, said he applauds Sanders’ role in engaging younger voters nationally and discussing issues important to liberal voters.

“The more he talks about these progressive ideas, the likelier they are to happen,” Aguayo said.

Sanders outlined a number of issues he would push for nationally, including Medicare for all single-payer program, a $15 minimum wage and free tuition at public colleges and universities. He expects health care costs, prescription drug prices and infrastructure to be the most important issues of his re-election campaign.

Sanders said Our Revolution, a national political organization spun off his presidential bid, has been doing “phenomenally.” Last month a founding member resigned, claiming the organization was not paying adequate attention to Latino candidates. The organization has also been criticized for poor fundraising numbers.

Several little-known candidates have come forward to run against Sanders, but he has not received a major challenger. In 2012, Sanders ran as an independent but also won the Democratic primary. He won re-election that year with 71 percent of the vote.

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