82-year-old U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is running for reelection to a fourth term

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said Monday that he would run for reelection this year, squelching speculation that the 82-year-old progressive icon might retire at a time when the Democratic Party is anxious about the advancing age of its top leaders.

Hailing from a Democratic stronghold, Sanders’ decision virtually guarantees that he will return to Washington for a fourth Senate term. And his announcement comes at a critical moment for Democrats as the party navigates a growing divide over Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

Sanders has criticized President Joe Biden‘s handling of the U.S. relationship with Israel even as he’s hailed much of the Biden’s domestic agenda ahead of what could be a tough reelection bid against GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

With the prospect of Trump’s possible return to the White House, Sanders framed his bid to return to the Senate as being driven by concerns about the future of democracy in the U.S. In an announcement video, he said that in many ways the 2024 election “is the most consequential election in our lifetimes.”

“Will the United States continue to even function as a democracy, or will we move to an authoritarian form of government?” he said. He questioned whether the country will reverse what he called “the unprecedented level of income and wealth inequality” and if it can create a government that works for all, and not a political system not dominated by wealthy campaign contributors.

Sanders is an independent. He was a Democratic congressman for 16 years and still caucuses with the Democrats.

He sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 and 2020. He said a year ago that he would forgo another presidential bid and endorse Biden’s reelection this year.

Sanders became the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in 2022, a position he had long sought and has enabled him to tout some of his top priorities, including lowering the cost of prescription drugs and other health services.

“I have been, and will be if re-elected, in a strong position to provide the kind of help that Vermonters need in these difficult times,” Sanders said in a review of his positions as chairman of that panel and a member of the Senate Democratic leadership team, as well as a senior member of various other committees.

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