MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Bernie Sanders replaced the New Hampshire state director of his presidential campaign on Sunday after growing indignation from his fiercest supporters that their concerns about losing the first-in-the-nation primary states were being ignored.
More than 50 members from Sanders’ state steering committee applauded on Sunday afternoon when they heard that Joe Caiazzo had been reassigned to Massachusetts, according to those in the room. The news was delivered by the new state director, Shannon Jackson, who ran Sanders’ Senate reelection in 2018.
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“The people who helped Bernie win here last time knew and felt intimately that something was very different and not for the best,” said a steering committee member who was at the meeting. “We know our state, we know our counties and we see what other campaigns on the ground are doing. We weren’t happy with what we were seeing.”
The shake-up comes as progressive voters in New Hampshire weigh Sen. Elizabeth Warren as a better option to beat President Donald Trump. At a Democratic convention here just over a week ago, a noticeable number of 2016 Sanders voters said they had moved their support to Warren. Even members of the Sanders steering committee — his most diehard supporters — said they were eyeing Warren.
The Sanders campaign also parted ways with senior adviser Kurt Ehrenberg, a well-respected local grassroots activist who was with Sanders from the start.
“From the beginning there was a fundamental disagreement about how to run a successful primary campaign in New Hampshire,” Ehrenberg said. “There was a strong disagreement.”
Ehrenberg was a driving force behind Sanders’ introduction to New Hampshire, helping him land major speaking engagements to union groups for almost a decade. He also served stints as both New Hampshire state and political director in Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. Sanders beat Hillary Clinton by 22 points that year, helping to launch a nearly five-month nationwide primary battle.
Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, said on Sunday that things were going well in the state.
“We feel really good about the situation in New Hampshire and where we find ourselves,” Shakir said. “The campaign has a strong volunteer operation in that state, great staff, and the turnout of events with Bernie has been particularly strong as of late as well. So we feel very good about where we find ourselves in New Hampshire.
“Now we’re trying to think around the corner and see where the next challenges are going to lay and put ourselves in a position to secure the nomination, and we’re making staff moves and hires in accordance with that.”
Sanders supporters, however, said the campaign was failing the basics: Listen to your supporters and treat them with respect. At the meeting on Sunday, some drove several hours from northern New Hampshire to express their concerns.
“The main issue has been disrespect and a squandering of the campaign base in 2016,” a steering committee member said. “These are the people who are true believers Bernie Sanders would be a great president.”
All of the committee members interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the campaign. They said the campaign planned to announce the staffing changes on Monday.
“People felt disaffected, like, ‘My God, how could they be doing this?’” another member said. “They said our metrics have been pretty good. But it just seems like something is off.”