Staff keep Sanders connected to the Capitol from the campaign trail

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - A rare glimpse behind the scenes within Sen. Bernie Sanders' D.C. and Vermont offices offers insight into how the 78-year-old can keep up with two, more than full-time jobs.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign rally Monday, March 2, 2020, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

On the trail and in Vermont, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ message rarely changes.

Senior Policy Analyst Kathryn Becker Van Haste works in his Burlington, Vermont office. She said that consistency and clarity makes it relatively straightforward when staffers like her are left in charge back home.

"The great thing about working for Bernie is we know exactly what he wants us to do," she said.

Their job remains the same: help constituents through federal red tape, identify problems facing Vermonters, and help develop policy solutions.

“Not every Vermonter is going to sit-down with the senator, but they can sit down with us,” said Van Haste, "we really do everything we can to be the face of Bernie when Bernie’s not in Vermont."

That can mean literally taking his place at events or be as simple as answering phones.

It’s a similar story at his office in D.C, where staffers like Legislative Director Lori Kearns meet with Vermonters, keep Sanders up to date on developing bills and craft fresh proposals with other lawmakers.

Kearns said Sanders signs off on everything from policy to social media.

"We’re in communication with him constantly,” Kearns said, "it’s just sort of like as these things come up, we keep him informed which is no different than when he’s not running for president."

There is one responsibility they can’t handle for the senator.

“He’s not here for every vote,” Kearns said of the biggest technical challenge with the senator away.

Sanders, who took great pride in missing very few votes prior to his presidential runs, has missed more than any other lawmaker since February of last year.

But, staffers said if an issue or his voice is deemed important enough, Sanders will be back to vote. They've worked closely with Senate leadership to ensure they know what's coming as early as possible, so he can get back when necessary.

We asked Sanders staff if Vermont's as well-represented as it would be if Sanders weren't campaigning. "Although he’s got two very big jobs right now, I think he’s able to do both incredibly well," said Van Haste.

Along with Sanders’ staff, our team spoke with more than a dozen Progressives, Democrats, and Republicans in Vermont and D.C. We did so with the understanding that they would not be named in this story so they could speak forthrightly.

While a few in Vermont said they would like to see him at more events, none suggested Vermonters are being harmed by Sanders’ time away on the campaign trail.

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