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Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders gestures on stage during a primary night rally in Concord, New Hampshire, February 9, 2016.Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
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Bernie Sanders Becomes the First Jew to Win a Presidential Primary

Bernie Sanders made history with a huge win over Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire primary. How have other Jewish politicians stacked up in their bids for the White House?

by
Jonathan Zalman
February 10, 2016
Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders gestures on stage during a primary night rally in Concord, New Hampshire, February 9, 2016.Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

In the 2000 presidential election, Al Gore selected Joe Lieberman, then a Democratic Senator from Connecticut, to be his vice presidential running mate. They lost to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and we know how that went. Four years later, Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, took a stab at the White House himself, as a Democratic presidential candidate. Gore didn’t back him (he supported Howard Dean instead). Lieberman, touting “Joementum” before the New Hampshire primary, placed fifth there, and he soon dropped out of the race altogether having won not one single primary (he placed third in his home state of Connecticut, behind John Edwards and John Kerry, the eventual Democratic presidential nominee).

Enter Bernie Sanders, who made history on Tuesday night by becoming the first Jewish presidential candidate from a major party to win a primary election. As expected, the Senator from Vermont triumphed over Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire primary, gathering 60% of the vote.

Three other men of Jewish descent have made runs for the White House. Arlen Specter ran in 1996 but withdrew before the Republican primaries began; Barry Goldwater, who was baptized and raised Episcopalian but had a Jewish father, received the Republican Party’s presidential nomination but lost to Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964; and former Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976. He won two delegates.

Jill Stein, who is Jewish, received the Green Party presidential nomination in 2012 and is the party’s candidate for 2016.

Oh, and if former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ever decides to shift his mindset from “considering” to putting his money where his mouth is, then, alas: Bernie Sanders would have some Jewish company.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article did not mention Milton Shapp on the list of Jewish men who have run for the office of U.S. president.

Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.

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