Meet Senator Bernie Sanders' Wife — Jane O’Meara Sanders

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bernie sanders speaking

Anyone who paid attention during the 2016 election knows who Bernie Sanders is. After announcing a presidential campaign in 2015, he successfully influenced millions of people across the country, running a platform supported by donations that averaged just $27 per person. His rejection of corporate funds and Super PACs set him apart from the rest.

Though he did not win, he still urged supporters to continue the “political revolution” that his campaign started, and he still speaks out on behalf of his values. But before being elected as the longest-serving Independent in Congressional history, and elected to the Senate in 2007, he was part of the U.S. House of Representatives. He was also mayor of Burlington and was re-elected three times.

Sanders also tried running for president in the 2020 election, but was beat out in the primaries by President Joe Biden.

The world knows and adores the 79-year-old politician, but what do we know about his wife, who was often seen with him on the campaign trail?

Who is Bernie Sanders's wife, Jane O'Meara Sanders? 

O'Meara Sanders has stood by her husband's side every step of the way, and often accompanied him when he was campaigning. But does she share the same ideals and values? What is life like for their family?

Sanders's wife was born Mary Jane O'Meara on January 3, 1950, and grew up in Brooklyn, as one of the five children of Bernadette Joan (Sheridan) and Benedict P. O'Meara. Her nationality is American, but she's of Irish descent and was raised Catholic.

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Where did O'Meara attend school?

O'Meara went to St. Saviour High School and after graduating went on to accumulate multiple college degrees.

While she originally dropped out of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, she received her bachelor’s degree in social work from Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. She also has a doctorate in leadership studies in politics and education from Union Institute & University she received in 1996.

What does O'Meara do for a living?

O'Meara Sanders has quite a long career history.

She has worked in the Juvenile Division for the Burlington Police Department, as a community organizer with the King Street Area Youth Center, and for Volunteers in Service to America. After that, for about 10 years, she was Director of the Mayor's Youth Office and Department Head in Burlington.

In 1996, she was appointed as Provost and Interim President of her alma mater, Goddard College. She was elected as a School Board Commissioner and helped found the Women's Council & the Film Commission.

After her husband was elected as Mayor, she worked in his office as a volunteer.

How did O'Meara and Sanders meet?

O'Meara met Sanders during his campaign for Mayor of Burlington.

That's right! The couple met just ten days before Sanders won his campaign for Mayor of Burlington, and again at his victory part. The two grew up only 15 blocks away from each other in Brooklyn, New York.

Though they didn’t marry until many years later, she described the moment she met him:

“I sat down and said, ‘Who’s Bernie Sanders?’ They said, ‘He’s running for mayor.’ I said, ‘Let’s organize a debate.’ So we did. He came, and everyone was swarming around him and the other candidates, because they weren’t supportive of the mayor, so, being the good Catholic girl, of course I was very nice to the mayor and barely even said hello to Bernie.

But when I heard him speak, well, that was it. The police department I was working with supported him after that, and he won 10 days later. We met at the victory party, and that was the beginning of forever.

Were O'Meara and Sanders were previously married?

O’Meara was married to her first husband, David Driscoll, and had three children with him: daughters Heather and Carina, and son David Jr.

Carina Driscoll served as a State Representative in the Vermont House of Representatives from 2001-2003, and had an unsuccessful run for Mayor of Burlington, Vermont in 2018. O'Meara and Driscoll divorced shortly after David, Jr. was born.

Bernie Sanders's first wife was Deborah Shiling, his college sweetheart. They were married for two years before divorcing in 1966 and had no children. However, Sanders does have a son, Levi Sanders, from a relationship with his girlfriend, Susan Campbell Mott.

When did Sanders and O'Meara wed?

O'Meara and Sanders wed in 1988, and have been happily married ever since. They will be celebrating 33 years of marriage on May 28th.

Though they don’t have biological children together, Sanders considers his wife’s three kids to be his own. In addition to O'Meara's children, Sanders has a son, Levi, from his previous relationship.

From their blended family, the two have seven grandchildren from his son Levi and his stepchildren.

O'Meara was president of Burlington College and was accused of bankrupting it.

For 7 years, from 2004 to 2011, O'Meara Sanders served as President of the small liberal arts college. She was responsible for increasing the school’s fundraising and oversaw a purchase of property intended to grow enrollment from 200 to 750 students. Talk about a small school. 

The purchase of the property may have led to financial ruin, as the college was cash-strapped and struggled to meet payroll. She allegedly “over-leveraged the institution by borrowing $10 million to finance a risky campus expansion, assuming she could make payments by increasing enrollment and donations during an economic downturn.”

She was never formally charged and resigned in 2011. The college closed in 2016, and Jeff Weaver announced that an investigation into the land deal was closed in November 2018.

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What does O'Meara do now?

Since the closing of the college, O'Meara has been her husband’s advisor.

Aside from working alongside him during his presidential campaign, Sanders has described his wife as “one of my key advisors,” employing her as “an administrative assistant, spokeswoman, policy adviser, chief of staff, and media buyer.” She’s also served in his Congressional office as Chief of Staff and Press Advisor.

According to Washington Post reporter Colman McCarthy, O'Meara had draft more than 50 pieces of legislation by 1996.

Sandersis incredibly proud of his wife.

In an interview with the Burlington Free Press, Sanders said, “Obviously, Jane has played an important role in the congressional office. Yes, she is a soulmate, a sounding board.”

And at a town hall event, when asked what his proudest moment was, he said it was being married to Jane for 27 years. How sweet!

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Both Sanders and O'Meara have a passion for helping others.

As evident by his platform, Sanders has a knack for wanting the best for the American people. And it’s this shared value that brought them together.

Bernie grew up in a small apartment, while Jane’s father suffered health issues when she was just a child. They couldn’t afford medical care for his broken hip, which inspired her to want to help.

They both believe college should be affordable and that the country needs to invest in young people to carry out these “bold” ideas. Both think with empathy, a quality that is extremely rare in politics.

O'Meara has learned a lot from her marriage to Sanders.

Before meeting, she joined protests against the Vietnam War, but was close to quitting politics when Richard Nixon won the re-election. After hearing her now-husband speak, she “learned the right way to be a public servant,” all from him.

But Sanders also learns from O'Meara, and has said that she isn’t afraid to offer constructive criticism: “She lets me have it if she thinks I made a mistake.”

O'Meara co-found the Sanders Institute.

A few years ago, O'Meara co-founded a progressive think tank known as The Sanders Institute with her son, David, Jr. However, in March 2019, the institute revealed that it was going to shut down its operations and stop accepting any donations, at least until Bernie's presidential campaign ended.

After criticism rolled in about the decision, Jane commented, "We didn’t think about the Clinton or the Trump Foundation. We just thought, I’m going to be very active [in the presidential campaign]... it’s just too mushy — it could become too mushy. We wanted to safeguard it. It’s a suspension, not a shutdown."

O'Meara weighed in on Sanders's public feud with Senator Elizabeth Warren.

In 2018, Bernie Sanders's alleged comments started a feud with Elizabeth Warren regarding comments he made during a private meeting at Warren's apartment. Warren accused Sanders of saying that a woman couldn't be president or even win the presidency.

However, O'Meara made an announcement following coverage of these supposed comments. “I think that this discussion is over,” she said. “We remain committed to continuing a progressive movement made up of women and men, Black and white, gay and straight. The message is unity.”

She then described Bernie as “a person that everybody can trust," and mentioned Warren.

“Maybe people sometimes misremember things that happened. But I know without a doubt that it is not anything Bernie would ever say. It is inconceivable because it’s not what he believes. And there’s proof of that going back many, many years. I’m not attacking Elizabeth Warren in any way, shape or form on this. My message is Bernie is trying to bring people together,” she said at the time.

She got a huge kick out of the Bernie Sanders Inaugeration memes.

O'Meara thought the Bernie meme was actually "really cute." In a phone interview, O'Meara said that many of the memes made her literally “laugh out loud."

“I like all of them,” she said. “I liked him with the steelworkers up in the air. He always stands with the steelworkers, so he might as well sit with them.”

Along with the steelworkers, O'Meara's favorites included her husband perched on the Iron Throne, hanging out with comic book heroes, and with Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference in 1945.

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Samantha Maffucci is an editor for YourTango who has written hundreds of articles about relationships, trending news and entertainment, and astrology. Visit her author profile for more content.