In 2006, Bernie Sanders was elected to the U.S. Senate with 65 percent of the vote over Republican Rich Tarrant. The Senate campaign was one of the costliest in Vermont history, with Tarrant initially putting up $3.45 million of his personal fortune, Sanders starting with a $2.9 million bank, and a third Republican, Greg Park, raising over $1 million. But the victory was never in doubt, with the Associated Press declaring Bernie the winner one minute after the polls closed.
The race began in May 2006 with a series of rallies that kicked off in Burlington and continued to Springfield, Rutland, Bennington, and Brattleboro. Senator Patrick Leahy stepped up with the first endorsement for Bernie – the two had worked side by side in Washington on issues facing Vermont and the nation.
“Bernie Sanders came to Washington to fight for us,” said Senator Leahy. “And he kept his word.”
Bernie’s track record as Mayor and then in the U.S. House of Representatives had gained him the trust of working-class Vermonters, family farmers, the elderly, veterans, and youth. During eight terms in the House, he earned a reputation as “The Amendment King” for passing more amendments than any other member of Congress.
He also kept up an ongoing fight against the Bush administration for giving tax breaks to billionaires and allowing the national debt to hit record levels.
“Hear me loud and clear,” he said. “I believe that it is wrong and an embarrassment to our country that we continue to have, by far, the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth and that the gap between the rich and the poor is growing wider every day.” He also criticized the Bush administration’s record on health care, environmental protection, and energy policy and the ongoing war in Iraq.
During his victory rally in downtown Burlington, Bernie told the crowd, “Together, we are going to turn this nation around. I believe that destiny has suggested that this small state of Vermont is, in fact, going to lead America in a very different direction and that the day is going to come when all over America people are going to say, Thank you, Vermont.”