Sanders' Stepdaughter Loses Race for Mayor in Vermont's Largest City

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) / Getty Images
March 7, 2018

Carina Driscoll, the stepdaughter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), faltered in her bid to become the mayor of Burlington, Vermont on Tuesday.

Driscoll, a former state legislator who ran as an independent against two-term incumbent Democrat, Miro Weinberger, received only 35 percent of the vote, according to initial results reported by the Burlington Free Press.

A local reporter shared a video on Twitter of the candidate arriving at Burlington pub following her loss to Weinberger.

During the campaign, the former state legislator pitched her experience as a small business owner and former member of the school board as decisive to tackling the city's problems. Driscoll, who stressed her desire to implement a people-led vision" to build "a local economy that works for" everyone, also accused the incumbent administration of being too close to private interests.

"I’m asking for your vote because City Hall is not listening to us, and is catering to private interests instead of working for the people who live here," Driscoll's campaign website stated. "It’s time to elect a leader who understands that Burlington is NOT for sale."

In the midst of the campaign, Driscoll's connections to her mother's, Jane Sanders, controversial tenure as president of Burlington College drew the ire of voters and members of the media. A woodworking school founded by Driscoll and her husband received about $500,000 in payments from the college, according to reports. Driscoll's school had a partnership with the institution that allowed students to study the craft at Driscoll's facility.

Carol Moore, Burlington College's final president, claimed the arrangement was a "sweetheart deal" that Jane Sanders arranged for her daughter. Moore has also alleged that many of the institution's financial burdens, which resulted in Burlington College being forced to shutter its doors in 2016, were a direct result of Jane Sander's tenure.

In 2017, it was announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney's Office have been investigating allegations of bank fraud related to $10 million deal Jane Sanders orchestrated while president of Burlington College to purchase land adjacent to the institution's campus. A federal grand jury was impaneled to hear testimony in the case; however, no charges of wrongdoing have been brought against anyone to date.

Regardless of the controversy, Driscoll's campaign was able to garner support from both the progressive and traditionally establishment forces in Vermont politics. Driscoll's campaign was supported by Vermont Democratic Lt. Governor David Zuckerman, Burlington's public employee union, and Our Revolution, a political advocacy group that supports "social democrats" running for office. Driscoll was also endorsed by the Burlington Free Press, which cited her commitment to "meeting the needs of low- and moderate-income residents."

Burlington, the state's largest city, launched Bernie Sanders' political career in 1981 when it elected the self-described "socialist" as its mayor. Sanders won reelection three times to mayorality, serving between 1981 and 1989, before leaving to pursue a run for Vermont's at-large congressional district.

Driscoll was not the only family member of Bernie Sanders to announce a run for political office this year. In February, the senator's only biological son, Levi Sanders, announced his intention to run as a Democrat for New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District.