Progressive Democrats meeting May 8 to organize Sanders '16 presidential run

Vermont Democratic Socialist to be in Iowa on May 17

Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-VT) tours the Afghan National Police Academy in Kabul, Afghanistan, in this photo taken February
Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-VT) tours the Afghan National Police Academy in Kabul, Afghanistan, in this photo taken February 20, 2011 and released on February 21. Sanders was part of a congressional delegation visiting the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan supported training site. REUTERS/U.S. Navy Petty Officer Ernesto Hernandez Fonte/Handout (AFGHANISTAN - Tags: MILITARY CONFLICT POLITICS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTR2IWVC

DES MOINES — Jeff Cox isn't sure what it means that Sen. Bernie Sanders will be visiting Iowa later this month, “but I do know it's a long way from Vermont.”

“I was a bit surprised that he was on the program,” Cox said about Sanders' planned appearance at the May 17 Clinton County Democratic Hall of Fame dinner.

Cox, a former chairman of the Johnson County Democratic Party, hopes it's a sign the self-described Democratic Socialist is seriously thinking about a 2016 presidential run.

As a member of the Progressive Democrats of America, Cox thinks the 72-year-old second-term senator could help the Democratic Party return to “the kind of New Deal Democratic approach to economics that has been lost to the Democratic Party, particularly under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.”

To encourage Sanders, officially an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats, to get into the 2016 race, Progressive Democrats will have an organizational meeting for the Iowa Draft Bernie Sanders for President campaign at 7 p.m. May 8 in Room E of the Iowa City Public Library.

A petition and tickets for Sanders' appearance at the Clinton County dinner will be available. A social hour will begin at 5 p.m. with the dinner at 6:30 p.m. at the Millennium Ballroom in Goose Lake.

In addition to liking Sanders' economic positions, Cox said Sanders is right on war issues.

“Pres. Obama and Hillary Clinton, too, if she's elected, will continue the drone wars and assassinations of American citizens, prison camps that hold people indefinitely and without due process,” Cox said.

Although Iowa's first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses aren't scheduled until February 2016, Cox said it's not too early to start thinking about a nominee. Other campaigns have been active, he said, noting a Get Ready for Hillary event in Des Moines earlier this year. Democrats who are being mentioned as 2016 candidates have visited, too.

Sanders has fueled speculation he'll run for the Democratic nomination because he's been giving speeches in the South and New Hampshire. In a recent Slate WeigelCast interview, Sanders didn't commit to running, but said he's prepared to address the major issues.

“We need people standing up for the working class and the middle class of this country, people prepared to take on the big money interests who dominate our economic and politic life,” he told David Weigel. “I am prepared to do that. I don't think I'm not the only person prepared to do that. But it is something that I'm giving consideration to.”

It may seem like a long shot, especially given speculation Clinton will be anointed the Democratic nominee, but Cox said it's too early to rule out Sanders.

“People say he can't win (because) he's a Jewish socialist from Vermont, but if an African American from Chicago whose middle name is Hussein can carry three states from the former Confederacy, anybody can win,” Cox said.

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