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Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a rally for Omaha Democratic mayoral candidate Heath Mello, Thursday, April 20, 2017, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Vermont's Bernie Sanders cruises to his third Senate term

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent Vermont progressive considering a second run for the presidency, cruised to re-election for his third term in the Senate on Tuesday, easily outpacing eight candidates.

Sanders, the independent who has long been one of Vermont’s most popular politicians for decades, spent little time campaigning in the state where he has faced few serious opponents since he was first elected to the state’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990. He moved up to the Senate in 2006.

In August, Sanders won Vermont’s Democratic Senate primary, but as is his custom, he turned down the nomination and appeared on the November ballot as an independent. The state’s Democratic Party did not run an opponent against him.

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In the primary, H. Brooke Paige won the Senate nomination along with the nomination to five other statewide GOP posts, including the Senate. But after the primary, Paige, who said he sought the nominations to ensure the Republicans had candidates on the ballot, turned down all the nominations except that of secretary of state, allowing the party to choose someone for the position.

The state party chose Zupan, a Manchester real estate broker with experience in international trade, who came in second in the August GOP primary. Zupan campaigned against what he felt was big government and social welfare programs. But his candidacy never gained traction and his fall campaign drew little attention.

Political party quiz

There were also seven third-party candidates on the ballot.

Rather than focusing on his re-election, Sanders traveled the country to support Democratic candidates and an array of policy issues. An online fundraising powerhouse in 2016, Sanders has maintained a list of millions of his supporters that he can use to help endorsed candidates.

Election map

Sanders’ was the main alternative to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primaries, but the 2020 campaign is expected to be a wide-open contest that could include several senators such as Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California, plus former Vice President Joe Biden, other members of Congress, governors and mayors.

Sanders has been at the center of a debate over the party’s future and whether his agenda of free college tuition, a $15 hourly minimum wage and a “Medicare for all” health care can win over general-election voters.

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