- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 30, 2015

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a self-described “democratic socialist,” is entering the 2016 presidential race as a Democrat.

“People should not underestimate me,” Mr. Sanders told The Associated Press. “I’ve run outside of the two-party system, defeating Democrats and Republicans, taking on big-money candidates and, you know, I think the message that has resonated in Vermont is a message that can resonate all over this country.”

Mr. Sanders served 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006. He generally caucuses with Democrats, and has been speaking out on what he calls a “rigged” economy that works for the rich and powerful at the expense of average Americans.

“What we have seen is that while the average person is working longer hours for lower wages, we have seen a huge increase in income and wealth inequality, which is now reaching obscene levels,” he said.

The 73-year-old said his message would appeal not just to Democrats, but to independents and Republicans as well, and said he’d release proposals to raise taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations and offer tuition-free education at all colleges and universities.

He is scheduled to give a press conference at noon on Thursday on Capitol Hill “to discuss his agenda for America.”

His entrance into the race could force former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the undisputed Democratic frontrunner, to clarify her positions on some issues near and dear to the liberal base. For example, he has opposed a new free trade agreement the administration is trying to broker with Pacific Rim nations, while Mrs. Clinton was noncommittal recently on the campaign trail.

“I respect her and like her,” Mr. Sanders said of Mrs. Clinton.

He said he has “never run a negative ad in my life,” but still drew a distinction with Mrs. Clinton, promising to talk “very strongly about the need not to get involved in perpetual warfare in the Middle East.”

“I voted against the war in Iraq,” he said. “Secretary Clinton voted for it when she was in the Senate.”

Money and politics will also be a central theme in his campaign, including a push for a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

“What you’re looking at here is a real disgrace,” he said. “It is an undermining of American democracy.

“But can we raise the hundreds of millions of dollars that we need, primarily through small campaign contributions to run a strong campaign? And I have concluded that I think there is a real chance that we can do that,” he said.

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