Vermont resident Jon Svitavsky announced on July 5 that he is challenging Sen. Bernie Sanders in his upcoming re-election in 2018. In his most recent race for re-election, Sanders won over 71 percent of the vote and the Democratic Party didn’t bother to run a candidate. In the 2016 presidential primaries, Sanders received over 86 percent of the vote in Vermont. Among the small percentage of people who voted for Hillary Clinton in the state was Svitavsky, a homeless shelter director who is beginning to receive support from other disgruntled Clinton supporters across the country.
Though Sanders enjoys overwhelming support in his home state, his political opponents around the country have isolated and built up naysayers to diminish his popularity. In June 2016, NBC host Joy Reid did a profile in the Daily Beast on Al Giordano, an anti-Sanders troll who gained a sizable following of Clinton supporters on Twitter during the primaries. Giordano claimed he would run against Sanders in 2018 but has yet to file and currently resides in Mexico City. In February 2016, the Daily Beast ran a hit piece meant to perpetuate the whitewashing of Sanders’ presidential campaign. It featured an interview with a black Vermont resident who claimed Sanders ignored the black community in the state. In October 2016, Politico ran an article featuring quotes from several Vermont Democrats complaining that Sanders wasn’t helping Democrats in Vermont, despite the fact that Sanders made several appearances around the country to campaign on behalf of Hillary Clinton. Now Svitavsky, a Democrat from Bridport, Vermont, is trying to make another case against Sanders.
Vermont Public Radio reported, “Jon Svitavsky, 59, says he believes that Sanders’ ‘divisive’ politics have fractured the Democratic Party nationally and paved the way for the rise of Republican President Donald Trump.” On his Twitter account he has shared blog posts written by other Clinton supporters attacking Sanders. According to Svitavsky, he was recruited by a group called Organizing for Democrats-U.S.A to run against Sanders. The organization isn’t filed with the FEC and has a small following on Facebook. On its Facebook page on June 15, the day after Sanders voted against the bill that included sanctions on Russia and Iran, the group posted, “Today OFD represents the Democratic Party candidate for U.S. Senate in the State of Vermont. That’s the Sanders'(I) seat. And an actual liberal Democrat from Burlington, Vermont is running. After Sanders voted to protect Mother Russia today, the decision was made to make this declaration.” The day before, the organization published in another post that it is “time for Democrats to unite against the Bernie Bot elements.”
Svitavsky told Vermont’s NPR affiliate, “I think Sanders has hurt our country very badly with what he’s done.” He added, “So not only did Bernie divide the Democratic Party and what not, but he continues to bash them, even on the unity tour, saying that Democrats and Republicans are the same, and they’re not.” Though Bernie Sanders never said that or bashed the party on the DNC Unity Tour, Svitavsky’s biases are shared by several avid Clinton supporters, and he isn’t alone in trying to challenge Sanders.
Folasade Adeluola, a Clinton supporter based in Indiana, also announced she is running to unseat Sanders in 2018. Her campaign website features a selfie with her and Hillary Clinton. She only has to be a legal resident of Vermont the day before the election to be eligible for the Senate seat, capitalizing on the opportunity to represent people of a state she doesn’t live in.