Bernie Sanders is on fire with support — from massive canvassing movements across the states to popular artists like Vampire Weekend and The Strokes playing at rallies. Sanders has been leading in the polls, too, and it’s clear the support is paying off. But celebrities and constituents pulling for him on the ground are not the only advocates in his life — and certainly not the ones who have been by his side for the longest. Jane O’Meara Sanders, Bernie's wife, is perhaps his greatest champion. After meeting at an event while Bernie Sanders was running for mayor, they married in 1988, and she's spent the last three decades as his confidant and campaign advisor. According to Jane, she said she fell in love with him instantly, and they’ve been entwined romantically and politically ever since since.
“Bernie’s top adviser always has been and will continue to be Jane. At every level, Jane is intimately involved,” Jeff Weaver, advisor to Sanders, told the Associated Press last year.
Jane has also been called the “most powerful woman not running in 2020.” Why? Because her long and storied career in politics, as a humanitarian, and as an educator on national platforms. O’Meara Sanders has supported her husband through more than a dozen campaigns for office, often referred to as his "closest advisor" while also focusing on establishing her own career in education administration.
Until 1991, she was working in politics in her own right as the Director of the Mayor’s Youth Office and Department Head in Burlington, Vermont, where she focused on creating programs for young people. In 1996, furthering her expertise in politics, O’Meara Sanders went to school at Union Institute & University in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she earned her doctorate in Leadership and Policy Studies. When her husband won his Congressional seat in 1991 in Vermont, O’Meara Sanders left her work and journeyed with him to Capitol Hill.
There, she completed a PhD program, all while volunteering as Chief of Staff and Policy and Press Advisor for her husband. According to a 1996 article from The Washington Post, during Sanders’ time in Congress, his wife Jane helped to draft “more than 50 pieces of legislation.”
In 2003, she became the President of Burlington College, stepping back into a higher education roll after having left in the 90’s. Years later, however, in 2011, she resigned from her position at the university after facing a controversial money scandal. During her time there, she turned the campus from a small space into a Lakefront property that cost the school $10 million. Although Sanders resigned due to alleged differences in vision with other university board members, the school faced crushing debt following the new property purchase that they struggled to recover from. Still, Sanders speaks positively of her experience in higher education before she supported her husband's first bid for president.
Today, she’s incredibly involved in her husband’s campaign for president, just as she was when he ran in 2016. She continues to advise him throughout this election cycle, leaving the Jane O’Meara Sanders touch on hearts and minds, but most importantly, Bernie’s, wherever she goes.