Key things to know about independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is expected to enter the 2016 Democratic presidential campaign on Thursday, according to people familiar with his decision:
A self-described "democratic socialist" who says he likes Scandinavian-style government, Sanders was credited as mayor of Burlington in the 1980s with leading an urban rebirth in Vermont's largest city, then went on to serve eight terms in the U.S. House. He is in his second term in the U.S. Senate.
Sanders was active in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee while at the University of Chicago in the early 1960s. He joined the March on Washington, which featured the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech, in 1963. He later joined the influx of counterculture, back-to-the-land migrants to Vermont and held various jobs, including carpenter and filmmaker. He was an early member of the Vermont-based Liberty Union Party, but had more success running for office as an independent. Drawing on support from University of Vermont students and others, Sanders upset the longtime incumbent mayor of Burlington by 10 votes in 1981 and served the rest of the decade in that post. He won election to Vermont's lone congressional seat in 1990 and to the Senate in 2006. He has continued with the independent label, but he caucuses with Democrats and serves as ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee.
Sanders has said he grew up "solidly lower middle class" in a Jewish family in Brooklyn, and still carries that New York borough's thick accent. His father, an immigrant from Poland, sold paint for a living —and Sanders' views about the distribution of wealth were formed early. "A lack of money in my family was a very significant aspect of my growing up," he said in December. "Kids in my class would have new jackets, new coats, and I would get hand-me-downs."
CALLING CARD MOMENT
Sanders took to the Senate floor in December 2010 and thundered for more than eight hours about a tax-cut package and Congress' failure to provide enough money, in his view, for education and social programs. With his trademark sarcasm, he mocked the rich, yelling: "How can I get by on one house? I need five houses, 10 houses! I need three jet planes to take me all over the world!" The speech was so popular it crashed the Senate video server. It was later printed in a small book.
EARLY CAMPAIGN ACTION
Tad Devine, a longtime Democratic strategist who worked on Sanders' campaigns in the 1990s, has signed on as an adviser. The senator has been traveling the country in recent months, especially to the early caucus and primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, drawing big and enthusiastic crowds as he speaks about wealth inequality and the need to get serious about climate change. Even so, he's considered a longshot in a nomination contest dominated by Hillary Rodham Clinton.
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