The suspension of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign on Wednesday had seemed inevitable for weeks, in part due to crushing setbacks in states he’d won four years ago — including Washington.
Sanders amassed an enthusiastic volunteer army here, led by far in local-small dollar donations, and packed in 17,000 supporters to a rally in the Tacoma Dome in mid-February, when he appeared to be the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. At the Tacoma rally, he appeared confident and declared the Democratic establishment and corporate interests “should be getting nervous.”
But the establishment in the end prevailed, as it was former Vice President Joe Biden who won the state’s March 10 primary as other prominent candidates dropped out, and Democrats coalesced behind the candidate many believed stands a better chance of defeating President Donald Trump in November.
Biden, who made no public appearances in Washington ahead of the primary, placed first, with about 38% of the vote, compared with 36.6% for Sanders. The result meant the rivals split the state’s 89 pledged Democratic delegates, with 46 going to Biden and 43 for Sanders, who needed a better delegate haul here to keep pace in the presidential race.
Sanders won Washington’s Democratic caucuses in 2016 but could not come out on top this year after the party decided to go with the more inclusive presidential primary, which set a turnout record. On a 13-candidate ballot, tens of thousands of votes went to other candidates, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who suspended their campaigns amid the state’s lengthy mail-in voting window.
News of Sanders’ exit was disappointing to local supporters, who praised him for staying true to his principles and for elevating progressive causes, including Medicare for All.
“Throughout his career, Bernie Sanders has demonstrated the kind of authenticity, clarity and passion that working people need in their leaders,” said U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, who chaired Sanders’ Washington campaign and was a top national surrogate who campaigned for him in Iowa and other states.
“I am so proud to have campaigned fiercely with and for Bernie — fighting for Medicare For All and humane immigration reform, taking on corporate supremacy and this corrupt administration, and lifting up the voices of his multi-racial, multi-generational movement for the change that will transform our country and finally take on the racial, economic and gender inequality that has plagued us for too long,” Jayapal said in a statement.
Jayapal added “Bernie’s work — and our work — is not done” and said supporters should remain energized “to take back the White House” and win down-ballot races in November. She called on Biden to recognize “the scale of the challenges we face” and embrace “the movement for change that Bernie’s presidential campaign has created.”