Sen. Bernie Sanders has encouraged young people to get involved in politics, and one Vermonter has answered that call — by challenging the sitting senator for his place in the U.S. Senate.
Thirty-seven-year-old Brad Peacock, an organic vegetable farmer in Shaftsbury, is an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate.
He strongly believes that health care is a right and not a privilege. He's worried that important domestic social programs are being threatened by Republican leaders in Congress, and he's very concerned about the global impact of climate change.
Those positions sound like Sanders', so why is Peacock running for the U.S. Senate? Because Sanders is telling young people that the time has come for them to get directly involved in the political process if they want to help move this country in a progressive direction.
"I have listened to him closely, and it really resonated with me when he says we need more young people in politics. And, you know, I said 'OK,'" said Peacock. “Well I think now is the time."
Peacock is a graduate of UVM and has worked as a farmer for the past 12 years, and he says this experience has taught him the importance of developing sustainable farming methods and the critical role that agriculture plays in the overall Vermont economy.
Peacock is also running because he strongly believes that senators shouldn't serve more than two terms, or 12 years. He says Sanders has just reached that limit.
"We don't need career politicians," said Peacock. "We need to get back to public service."
Peacock says he hopes Sanders makes another bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. That's another reason why Peacock is running this year, because he says Vermont should have a full-time senator representing the state in Congress.
"I hope that he may [run for president] and therefore, you know, I think the people of Vermont deserve a senator for six years,” said Peacock.
Norwich University political science professor Ted Kohn says it will be extremely difficult for anyone, including Peacock, to unseat Sanders and his $6 million campaign fund this year.
"Certainly he does not have much of a chance, but I like the idea that here's somebody who perhaps hadn't thought about running before and was inspired by Bernie Sanders to run,” said Kohn. “So the irony is that Mr. Peacock is actually a creation of Sen. Sanders.”
And Kohn says Peacock is one of hundreds of people across the country who have been inspired to run for office by Sanders.
"There are a lot of people who have been galvanized by Bernie Sanders, by his brand of progressive populism, by his appeal to young people," said Kohn.
And Kohn expects that Sanders will be actively campaigning for many of these out-of-state candidates this summer and fall.
"He could very well campaign throughout the country, and not just within the state of Vermont, and collect money and collect endorsements," Kohn says. "But ... perhaps more importantly, absolutely galvanize the Democratic base in ways that can only be good for the Democratic Party in 2018 and 2020."
Kohn says he doubts that the Vermont Republican Party will want to devote very much of its financial resources to defeat Sanders.
That's because Kohn believes the Republicans' top priority will be to re-elect Gov. Phil Scott and win some additional seats in the Legislature.
Correction 9:13 p.m. Peacock is from Shaftsbury, not Shrewsbury.