Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont easily won his state’s Democratic primary on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press, all but guaranteeing his re-election in November. But Mr. Sanders is expected to snub the party that he sought to represent in the 2016 presidential election: A self-described democratic socialist, he plans to reject the nomination and run instead as an independent, according to advisers.
Mr. Sanders followed this course in his Senate races in 2006 and 2012. By winning the Democratic nomination, he effectively prevented the party from putting another name on the November ballot, and many Democratic leaders and voters supported him in November elections regardless of him not running on the party line.
Voters were also casting ballots Tuesday in several other major primary elections, including fights for a Democratic Senate seat and the governor’s job in Wisconsin; races for governor, several House seats and Senate in Minnesota, as well as an attorney general’s race that has become controversial; and contested races for Congress and governor in Connecticut. Vermont voters were also choosing a Democrat to run against the Republican incumbent governor, Phil Scott.
Mr. Sanders, a favorite of progressive grass-roots voters, has made a ritual of refusing to run on the Democratic line in Vermont: He seeks the party’s nomination in order to block any rival from winning it, but then turns it down to protect the image of independence that he cherishes. But his refusal to call himself a Democrat was grating to many Hillary Clinton supporters and others in the party during his 2016 run for president.
By doing the same this year as he travels the country campaigning for insurgent liberal Democrats, Mr. Sanders is likely to face fresh criticism from Democrats that he is effectively borrowing their line on the ballot to advance himself and candidates like him who have little allegiance to the party.
The “democratic socialist” label that Mr. Sanders popularized during his 2016 campaign has only gained prominence since, with the rise of candidates who are now embracing it, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who beat a powerful New York Democrat in a House primary, and Cynthia Nixon, who is challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York.
Many Democrats fear that any connection to socialism — no matter how superficial — will be damaging with voters who will be turned off by an ideology they associate with radicalism. Those fissures within the party over the wisdom of courting the hard left were a factor in other races on Tuesday.
Among the major primaries elsewhere, several Wisconsin Democrats were competing for the party nomination to take on Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican who is seeking a third term in November. Two conservatives were also vying to challenge Wisconsin’s incumbent Democratic senator, Tammy Baldwin. And in Minnesota, several competitive races for federal and state offices have been overshadowed by recent domestic abuse allegations against Keith Ellison, who was running for the Democratic nomination for state attorney general. Polls were scheduled to close in both Wisconsin and Minnesota at 8 p.m. local time.