Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Jayapal says tuition-free community college 'probably won't' be in spending plan Progressives see budget deal getting close after Biden meeting MORE (I-Vt.) on Wednesday said many white people were “uncomfortable” voting for black candidates in the midterm elections.
Sanders specifically referenced the close gubernatorial races of Democrats Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacey Abrams in Georgia, who both trailed in their races in the most recent vote counts as of Thursday morning.
“I think, you know, there are a lot of white folks out there who are not necessarily racist who felt uncomfortable for the first time in their lives about whether or not they wanted to vote for an African-American,” Sanders told the Daily Beast. “I think next time around, by the way, it would be much easier for them to do that.”
A Sanders spokesman weighed in on the comments on Twitter on Thursday, saying that the senator was pointing out that Gillum's and Abrams's Republican opponents ran “explicitly racist campaigns.”
What @BernieSanders actually said was DeSantis, Kemp and Trump ran explicitly racist campaigns.— Josh Miller-Lewis (@jmillerlewis) November 8, 2018
"Gillum ran a great campaign and he had to take on some of the most ugly and blatant racism that we have seen in many, many years." https://t.co/TkCCp8acPr
“I think he’s a fantastic politician in the best sense of the word,” Sanders said of Gillum. “He stuck to his guns in terms of a progressive agenda. I think he ran a great campaign. And he had to take on some of the most blatant and ugly racism that we have seen in many, many years. And yet he came within a whisker of winning.”
Sanders, who is seen as a likely presidential contender for a 2020, endorsed both of the progressive candidates and rallied for Gillum in Florida. While both trail, recounts could still take place in both contests.
Both Gillum and Abrams were targeted by racist robocalls, and Gillum’s opponent, former Rep. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisNearly 80 percent of Republicans want to see Trump run in 2024: poll Miami private school orders vaccinated students to stay at home for 30 days as 'precautionary measure' Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo announces bid to be Florida's first Latina governor MORE (R), received criticism after saying Florida voters shouldn’t “monkey this up” by voting for Gillum.
Sanders said that, win or lose, he thought progressives fared well in the midterms, pointing to the success of Gillum and Abrams as well as Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) in his race against Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised The Senate confirmation process is broken — Senate Democrats can fix it Australian politician on Cruz, vaccines: 'We don't need your lectures, thanks mate' MORE (R-Texas) in getting close elections in seats that were all previously held by the GOP.
Sanders said Democrats who lost by a wider margin had trouble attracting votes from young voters and people of color due to not being far enough to the left.
Some candidates “did not bring the kind of new people, new energy that they needed and ended up doing quite poorly. In admittedly difficult states. Missouri and Indiana are not easy states but neither is Florida or Georgia or Texas,” Sanders said.
The gubernatorial races in both Florida and Georgia were still listed as too close to call on Thursday morning as final votes are being tabulated.
Updated at 11:44 a.m.