Sen. Bernie Sanders has signaled that he will have a new campaign manager if he runs for president in 2020, with his 2016 chief Jeff Weaver expected to take a diminished role.
The decision, which is contingent on Sanders making a second run for the White House, was first reported by CNN and confirmed by The Washington Post.
Sources said the decision was made months earlier, long before a group of former campaign staffers asked for a meeting to create a new sexual harassment policy ahead of any 2020 decisions, asking in a letter for Sanders to “[hire] diverse leadership to preempt the possibility of replicating the predatory culture for the first campaign.”
Weaver, 53, has worked closely with Sanders (I-Vt.) for much of the senator’s career. He first helped Sanders as the driver for his unsuccessful 1986 bid for governor; in 2016, he helped build a long-shot campaign into a powerhouse that broke small-dollar fundraising records and won 23 primaries or caucuses.
Weaver did not respond to a request for comment.
“A political campaign requires effectively deploying large numbers of people in an ever-changing environment,” Weaver wrote in his 2018 memoir. “In our case, it required a plan for how a much smaller force, with fewer resources and less infrastructure, would be able to defeat a much larger one.”
After Sanders lost the party’s nomination, Weaver became the president of Our Revolution, a grass-roots campaign organization designed to keep the momentum going. One year later, he passed the reins to Nina Turner, one of Sanders’s most popular and influential black surrogates.
Weaver remained in Sanders’s orbit, staying intimately involved with the process to change the Democratic National Committee’s delegate and primary rules ahead of 2020. Last month, at a Vermont summit organized by the Sanders Institute — a think tank founded by the senator’s wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders — Weaver made the rounds, talking with reporters and political allies about the senator’s political operation.
In the past few weeks, Weaver was put under pressure by the harassment questions posed by former staffers. Last week, he cooperated with a New York Times investigation into the harassment claims, saying that the 2016 operation had made mistakes and that anyone who committed harassment would have no role in 2020.
The repercussions from that investigation came quickly. Within days, a Sanders campaign veteran and incoming chief of staff to a new Democratic member of Congress had resigned.
“I certainly apologize to any woman who felt that she was not treated appropriately, and of course, if I run, we will do better next time,” Sanders said in an interview with CNN.
Sanders, who has said he is still taking advice on whether to run for president again, has not said who would lead another campaign. He would not be the first candidate to make a second run after shaking up his key team.
In the run-up to 2016, Hillary Clinton replaced the leadership from her unsuccessful 2008 campaign with a younger staff that had won several state-level elections for Democrats. And in 2008, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) hired Terry Nelson, a George W. Bush campaign veteran, to run his comeback bid. By the summer of 2007, he had fired Nelson and replaced him with Rick Davis, who'd held the same role in the 2000 campaign.