Bernie Sanders' wife, Jane, travels on nearly every campaign trip and is in nearly all senior staff meetings
"I don't know how she did it," Sanders said at a recent campaign rally about his wife being married to him for 27 years
Bernie Sanders’ microphone had just been taken from him. The Seattle event he was supposed to headline was about to be ended by Black Lives Matter protesters. And he and Jane, his wife, stood slightly off stage, perplexed and whispering to each other.
After talking to his wife, the Vermont senator and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate then did something he rarely ever does: He waded through the crowd of adoring supporters in the August heat, shaking hands, back slapping and getting far closer than he normally does with his devotees.
The idea, which left his supporters happy, wasn’t his. It was Jane’s, his wife of 27 years and someone that campaign aides affectionately refer to as the candidate’s most trusted adviser.
“I think every wife, or every husband, is the most important adviser of their spouse so I enjoy it very much, he doesn’t always listen to me as you may know,” Jane Sanders said with a laugh during an interview in Boulder, Colorado. “I’m not a policy adviser. I just give him a lot of advice and he decides what to take and what not to.”
Jane’s role, however, is unique.
With some exceptions, most candidate’s spouses play behind-the-scenes roles, helping calm the candidate during what can be a grueling process, and not stepping into the forefront until later in the campaign. Jane Sanders, however, is more hands on. She and her husband share an office at their campaign headquarters in Vermont, she travels on nearly every campaign trip and is in on nearly all senior staff meetings.
And unlike other campaigns, Jane Sanders regularly takes the stage with her husband, waving to the crowd before getting a kiss on the cheek.
“I don’t know how she did it,” Bernie Sanders said at a recent campaign rally about his wife being married to him for 27 years. “Really. (She is a) tough lady.”
“I never thought he would go to Congress”
While this is her life now, Jane Sanders never thought it would be.
“No. Not at all, not at all,” she said when asked if she thought this was in the cards when she married a socialist from Burlington, Vermont. “I never thought he would go to Congress, I never through he would be in the Senate, I never though he would run for president. But he is the best person for the job.”
Jane Sanders, was born in Brooklyn and lived only a few blocks from the man who would be her future husband. They didn’t meet until 1981, though, the night Sanders won his first term as mayor of Burlington. They worked together for seven years before they married in 1988 and spent their honeymoon in the Soviet Union.
At 64 years-old (Bernie is 74), Jane Sanders has three kids of her own and Bernie Sanders has one. They regularly tell people that they have four kids and seven grandchildren.
Though Jane has worked for her husband in the past, the enormity of what the couple is experiencing has just begun to set in, spurred on by the fact her husband is drawing thousands in nearly every city he visits.
“(I am) just very humbled by the possibility,” she said of becoming first lady. “I don’t think about it very much. I think (more) about him being president and what he needs to do.”
About the Clintons
In interviews and conversations, Jane Sanders plays coy with her political skills and ability, despite her past as a school board member and provost of Goddard College.
Her savvy, however, was on full display when asked about Sanders’ opponent, Hillary Clinton.
“I like Hillary. I have always respected her,” said Jane Sanders, before noting that she doesn’t “do gender or identity politics.”
“I think there is a difference in where they want to bring the country,” she said. “Bernie comes from a place of, no matter what you’re dealing with he comes to it from principle that becomes almost predictable. People say he’s too predictable he says the same thing for so many years but different issues come to life but if you know Bernie you can almost always know that he’s going to end up where it helps achieve fairness and equity especially for the most vulnerable among us.”
The comment fits with the way the Sanders himself has talked about Hillary Clinton.
“I’ve known Hillary for 25 years. I like her. I respect her. I disagree with her on a number of issues. No great secret,” the candidate said at a campaign event in Iowa earlier this year.
There is also the fact that Jane Sanders is, in a way, competing against former President Bill Clinton for the same job. When asked about the fact they are vying for the same gig, she looked embarrassed about the idea.
“Now that’s more difficult,” she said, laughing. “I think he has a little more experience than me in this area. I think he’s great. I think they are both tremendous.”
Role as first lady?
Jane Sanders said that should she become first lady, she would see her role as a “sounding board” or someone “to talk things through with.”
As first lady, she could see herself focusing in education, kids and issues about how the brain interacts with child development.
The wife of the candidate has tried to not look to far ahead, though, more focused on Tuesday’s debate and getting her husband in the right state of mind to take on Clinton and the other Democrats.
And it is that role – as wife-everythinger, as some have called her – that she relishes.
“I think if I wasn’t married to him I would be volunteering for him,” Jane Sanders said. “Honestly, there’s no one I respect and admire more and that’s a great place to be as a wife.”