Who Is Bernie Sanders' Wife? All About Jane Sanders

Bernie Sanders met his wife, Jane Sanders, at a debate

<p>Scott Olson/Getty</p> Bernie and Jane Sanders in 2016

Scott Olson/Getty

Bernie and Jane Sanders in 2016

Bernie Sanders has had a long career in politics, but since the 1980s he’s had his wife, Jane Sanders, by his side.

The Vermont senator, who’s the longest-serving independent in congressional history, married Jane in 1988 while he was the mayor of Burlington, and later became a member of the House of Representatives from 1991 to 2007. After his tenure, he was elected senator, and then ran for president in 2016 and 2020, seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

Jane has supported him throughout, often joining him on campaigns, and she founded The Sanders Institute think tank in 2017. She told Bloomberg in 2016 about their relationship, “We’re best friends, and we’ve been colleagues, and now we’re husband and wife, and grandparents together, and parents.”

She told PEOPLE that same year that they enjoy dancing at home together. “He’s romantic enough for me, believe me,” he said.

So who is Bernie Sanders’ wife? Here’s everything to know about Jane Sanders and her relationship with the Vermont politician.

She grew up in Brooklyn, New York City

<p>Aaron Davidson/WireImage</p> Bernie and Jane Sanders in 2016

Aaron Davidson/WireImage

Bernie and Jane Sanders in 2016

Jane was born in Brooklyn, N.Y.C., on Jan. 3, 1950, to Benedict and Bernadette O’Meara. She attended Catholic schools, including Saint Saviour High School, as a child.

She moved schools so many times that she told The Cut, “I never felt like I had to fit in, because I never quite did. I had to be comfortable with me, because that’s the only thing I was bringing to every new place.”

Per the outlet, her family struggled financially while she was growing up, particularly after her father had an accident when she was 2. After being out of work as a teacher, he became a taxi driver and Jane's mom attended secretarial school at night to help make ends meet. Jane's siblings also contributed, with her older brothers reportedly dropping out of high school to work.

She has three children

After her first year of college, Jane married her high school sweetheart, David Driscol.

Per The Cut, they moved from Brooklyn to Virginia after David was transferred, but she asked him to request a move further north, telling Yahoo! News that she didn’t enjoy living in a place “where the men would go after dinner and talk politics and the women would go clean up.”

She moved to Vermont with him at the age of 24 after he got a job in the state. However, they divorced in 1980. Jane told Yahoo! News that they had grown apart.

The former couple welcomed three children: two daughters, Heather and Carina, and a son, David. According to The Cut, Sanders “formally adopted” Jane's kids when her first husband died of lung cancer. Bernie and Jane also fostered 13 children.

Per Bustle, Heather is involved in the Sedona Yoga Festival, while David has worked for a snowboard manufacturer in Burlington. Meanwhile, Carina is a politician like Bernie, and is a member of the Vermont Progressive Party.

Along with Bernie’s son, Levi, and David’s daughter from his second marriage, Nicole, Jane sees them all as family, with “no halves or steps,” according to Yahoo! News.

She first met Bernie in 1981

<p>Laura Patterson/CQ Roll Call/Getty</p> Bernie and Jane Sanders in 1992

Laura Patterson/CQ Roll Call/Getty

Bernie and Jane Sanders in 1992

Jane first met Bernie in 1981, when he participated in his first mayoral debate in Burlington.

“I sat in the second row and I fell in love with Bernie’s ideas,” Jane told PEOPLE. “We met eyes — a few times, which I thought was interesting.”

A few weeks later, Sanders asked her to dance, and “that was it,” she shared.

The couple dated for a number of years before breaking up for about a year because she wanted to get married but Bernie didn’t.

They married in 1988

<p>Drew Angerer/Getty</p> Bernie and Jane Sanders in 2020

Drew Angerer/Getty

Bernie and Jane Sanders in 2020

Though they spent a year "on a break," the couple were still involved in each other's lives and Bernie proposed to Jane.

She later told PEOPLE that despite the breakup, he continued showing up for her children. “It wasn’t that he just went away," Jane explained. "When he finally asked me to marry him, I thought about that, about how he’s somebody you can count on.”

Jane revealed that when Bernie tried to get back together with her, she said no because of their differences in opinion over marriage. With that, he then took Jane “by the shoulders” and asked her to marry him.

Per The Hill, they had a civil ceremony and spent their honeymoon in the Soviet Union, which was more of a business trip as they helped form a sister-city tie between Burlington and Yaroslavl, Russia.

She worked as a social worker and community organizer

<p>Joe Raedle/Getty</p> Bernie and Jane Sanders in 2020

Joe Raedle/Getty

Bernie and Jane Sanders in 2020

Jane attended the University of Tennessee, before dropping out and moving back to Brooklyn. She then resumed her college education at Goddard College in Vermont, getting a bachelor’s degree in social work. In 1996, she earned a doctorate in leadership studies in politics and education from Union Institute & University in Ohio.

She worked in the Juvenile Division of the Burlington Police Department, as a community organizer with the King Street Area Youth Center, and volunteered for AmeriCorps Vista. From 1981 to 1991, she was also founding director of the Mayor’s Youth Office and Department Head in the City of Burlington. Per The Cut, Jane has also worked as a receptionist and a bank teller.

Jane became president of Burlington College in 2004, before resigning in 2011 and explaining that she and the board had “different visions for the future,” according to the Bennington Banner.

She founded The Sanders Institute in 2017

In June 2017, Jane founded The Sanders Institute, which aims to “revitalize democracy” by engaging people and organizations “in the pursuit of progressive solutions to economic, environmental, racial and social justice issues.”

She’s a fellow of the institute, while her son David is the executive director. She said at the time she founded the institute, “The purpose is to revitalize democracy in support of progressive institutions,” per The Hill.

She has worked for Bernie in the past

<p>Jamie McCarthy/Getty</p> Bernie and Jane Sanders in 2016

Jamie McCarthy/Getty

Bernie and Jane Sanders in 2016

Jane has been employed by her husband a number of times, as an administrative assistant, spokeswoman, policy adviser, chief of staff and media buyer, per The Hill. As of 1996, she has helped Bernie draft more than 50 pieces of legislation, according to The Washington Post.

Bernie has described Jane as one of his key advisers, and she’s served in his Congressional office as his chief of staff and his policy and press adviser.

She supported his presidential runs

<p>Michael Tullberg/Getty</p> Bernie and Jane Sanders in 2020

Michael Tullberg/Getty

Bernie and Jane Sanders in 2020

When Bernie first considered running for president, Jane was against it and said, “Do you really want to spend all your time raising money and defending every single thing that every single one of us ever did or thought?” per Yahoo! News.

Instead, she suggested that Bernie could raise the issues he cared about by writing a book or starting a nonprofit. Still, she ultimately gave her consent and supported Bernie by traveling with him when campaigning because “it helps him to have a familiar face, someone he can count on.”

After his campaign in 2016, she said, “He’s doing what he aimed to do ... He’s setting the agenda. That’s what it’s about.”

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