The Untold Truth Of Bernie Sanders' Son Levi Sanders

2020 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is a household name in the political arena. Whether you agree with the Vermont senator's politics or not, you surely know all about the Brooklyn, N.Y. native. After graduating from the University of Chicago, he officially moved to Vermont in his early 20s and kicked off his career by working a whole array of odd jobs, from carpentry to documentary filmmaking. In 1981, at the age of 40, Sanders finally made his big political debut when he was elected Mayor of Burlington "by a mere 10 votes."

Despite being a public figure, Bernie has managed to keep much of his private life under wraps. As his official bio states, "Bernie lives in Burlington, Vermont with his wife Jane. He has four children and seven grandchildren." Of those kids, only one is his biological child — his firstborn, Levi Noah Sanders. And if you think Bernie's life is full of highs and lows and drama, just wait until you learn about his son. This is the untold truth of Bernie Sanders' son, Levi Sanders.

Who is Levi Sanders' real mom?

According to Bustle, when CNN first published a list of "Bernie Sanders Fast Facts" back in 2015, it noted that the US Senator had one biological child, son Levi Sanders, with his first wife Deborah Messing (née Shiling). A few months later, however, Politico reporter Michael Kruse who unearthed a "little known fact" about Levi's actual biological mother.

While investigating Bernie for an in-depth profile, Kruse discovered that Levi's mom is really Susan Campbell Mott. Bernie spokesman Michael Briggs confirmed that fact, also noting that Bernie and Deborah got "a Mexican divorce" before the politician moved in with Susan. 

As the Daily Mail learned by looking at various public records, Bernie and Deborah called it quits in 1966 after just 18 months of marriage. He then began dating Susan and the couple had Levi Noah Sanders on March 21, 1969 at Brightlook Hospital in St. Johnsbury, Vt. The outlet was unable to find any records showing Bernie and Susan ever having tied the knot. Unfortunately, the relationship wasn't meant to be. In 1988, Bernie married Jane O'Meara and gave Levi three step siblings when he became stepdad to O'Meara's children — Heather, Carina, and David.

Levi Sanders' childhood was 'stark and dark'

In a 2015 profile titled "Bernie Sanders Has a Secret," Politico was able to gain some rare insight into Bernie's early life and, as a result, into Levi's childhood.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Bernie originally moved to Vermont with his first wife and. By the time Levi was born, the state had become Bernie's home. On March 17, 1969, he purchased a house with girlfriend Susan Campbell Mott in the tiny town of Stannard (it had a population of less than 200) and just four days later, Levi was born. When the couple split, they "shared custody" of Levi through "an informal agreement," and, according to one source, Levi's mom "was around a lot."

Meanwhile, Levi and his dad moved into a small duplex located at 295 1/2 Maple Street in Burlington. According to friends and family, the house was sparsely furnished and the fridge was usually pretty empty. What they did have was an abundance of was "checked-out library books and scribbled-on legal pads."

Levi (who apparently called Bernie 'Bernard' rather than 'Dad') had to deal with a home life that was "stark and dark," according to one source. As Bernie's friend Nancy Barnett told the outlet, "The electricity was turned off a lot. I remember him running an extension cord down to the basement. He couldn't pay his bills." No matter how many odd jobs he worked, from carpentry to freelance writing, and despite that fact that Bernie would eventually earn millions, he was "always poor" while raising Levi.

Bernie Sanders immersed Levi Sanders in politics at a young age

It seems that Levi Sanders has been around politics from the moment he was born. In fact, according to Politico, he was on hand when his dad's political career first began. Even though he was just two years old at the time.

It was October 23, 1971 and Bernie Sanders was attending a meeting of the anti-war Liberty Union Party at Plainfield, Vt.'s Goddard College. The Party was searching for someone to run for the Senate and, according to Politico, were pretty desperate when a 30-year-old Bernie volunteered. He reportedly "had thick-rimmed glasses and dark, curly hair, and his toddler son, Levi (pronounced LEH-vee), was seated in his lap" when he "raised his hand" to participate.

As party member John Bloch recalled, "We didn't have a lot of choices, and he was willing to do it," so he got the gig without much questioning. As Martha Abbott, another party member, added, "Liberty Union was running anybody and everybody they could find." And it was clear at the time that Bernie wasn't even close to the hard-charging revolutionary he would later become. According to Liberty Union Party founder Peter Diamondstone, Bernie's reason for raising his hand that night? "You know what? I'll try it. What do I have to do?" he reportedly said. Quite a start for a potential presidential path, huh? 

Levi Sanders has worked for his father since 2006

Given that he was there on the day when Bernie Sanders made his first foray into the political arena, it's perhaps no surprise that Levi Sanders has gone on to help his dad's career every step of the way. According to his LinkedIn profile, Levi first worked as a consultant on the Bernie's senate campaign in 2006 before graduating to senior policy strategist for Bernie's 2016 presidential campaign.

It's a role he reprised in 2020, which put him in charge of "legal and policy position analysis for social security, housing, health and other campaign initiatives." According to his LinkedIn, he's "responsible for debate preparation and East Coast campaign fundraising efforts" and considers himself to have a "proven track record in electoral politics, fundraising, grassroots organizing and building strong community relationships."

Levi holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in History, which he obtained from the University of Oregon in 1992. Prior to joining his father's campaigns, he was a general manager for the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf from 1994 to 2000. Since 2000, he's been balancing his work on his father's political campaigns with a role as Social Security Senior Legal Analyst for Cambridge & Somerville Legal Services. There he works as an advocate for health and disability cases and "represents clients in cases at initial, denial, reconsideration, administrative law and appeals council level."

Bernie Sanders' son tried to follow in his footsteps — with no luck

While helping his father reach his political aspirations, Levi Sanders has also devoted quite a bit of time and effort into getting his own foot in the door. Unfortunately, his efforts have been mostly unsuccessful. As Valley News reported, Levi's first attempt at entering politics came in 2004 when he ran for Register of Probate in Sullivan County, N.H. He secured just 39 percent of the vote and lost. He didn't fare much better the second time around when, in 2008, he ran for Sullivan County Register of Deeds and, lo and behold, he lost again.

Not one to give up, he tried for a third time just one year later. In 2009, Levi was one of nine hopefuls vying for one of four available city council seats in Claremont, N.H. He reportedly dubbed himself "progressive in nature" and undoubtedly tried his best, but when all was said and done, he finished seventh out of nine.

Levi Sanders didn't give up in the face of political defeat

It seems Levi Sanders doesn't take no for an answer. Despite his political losing streak, Levi made headlines in 2018 when he decided to run for Congress. It all started in February when Levi teased the idea to VICE. "I'm definitely considering it," he told the outlet, adding, "I'm excited, motivated, and interested in the race." What he was considering was running for New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District. More specifically, for "one of the most contested" seats in the country, which was being vacated by retiring Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.

Jump to March 2018 and Levi made his candidacy official, proclaiming, in part, "For 15 years, New Hampshire has been my family's home. For over 17 years, I have represented the working class who have been beaten up by the system. It is time to demand that we have a system which represents the 99% and not the 1% who have never had it so good."

Levi, who was 48 at the time, unveiled a political agenda that was extremely similar to his father's, including Medicare for all and free college tuition. But if he thought he'd have the same luck as his dad (Bernie Sanders actually beat Hillary Clinton by 22 points in New Hampshire in 2016), he was gravely mistaken...

Bernie Sanders refused to support Levi's political dreams

Despite the fact that they were running on similar platforms and that Levi Sanders is, you know, his son, Bernie Sanders flat-out refused to endorse Levi in his run for Congress. Following Levi's announcement, Bernie released his own official statement in which he noted that he was "very proud" but explained, "Levi will be running his own campaign, in his own way, with his own ideas." He continued, "The decision as to who to vote for will be determined by the people of New Hampshire's first district, and nobody else."

As if that didn't make his stance clear enough, Bernie later added, "In our family [...] we do not believe in dynastic politics." He also engaged in an awkward exchange about the matter with CNN anchor Chris Cuomo who questioned the "dynastic politics" excuse. Bernie stuck by his statement, however, and when Cuomo asked "Who's better for working people, you or him?" he simply replied, "[Levi] is doing a great job. We'll let the voters of New Hampshire make that decision."

To be fair, Bernie also declined to endorse his stepdaughter Carina Driscoll in her failed bid for his old job as mayor of Burlington, Vt. For his part, Levi seemed to appreciate the political distance between himself and his father, telling The Boston Globe [via The Washington Post], "You know I'm not 'Bernie's son'. I'm the son of Larry David's fourth cousin."

Levi Sanders was 'obliterated' in the New Hampshire primary

As Vanity Fair cheekily pointed out in September 2018, Bernie Sanders may have "made the right choice" when he refused to endorse his son, because Levi Sanders was absolutely "obliterated" in the New Hampshire primary. The political hopeful was quickly brought down to reality, as he received less than 2 percent of the vote and placed seventh out of 11 total candidates. As the outlet explained, Levi's run seemed set up for failure before it even began.

First of all, Levi didn't live in the district he was running for. Then there was the fact that he announced his run "too late in the cycle" and only managed to fundraise $35,000. The situation was only made worse by Levi's questionable performance at August's Democratic primary debate when the moderator actually threatened to cut off Levi's microphone because he kept shouting and interrupting others. He also tried to flex his sense of humor at the debate, and failed. According to the The New York Times, when he was asked to define himself, Levi quipped, "I am not a Romulan. I am not a Vulcan". When the audience didn't laugh, he tried to explain the reference, crying out, "Star Trek!"

As The Boston Globe reported, various members of Bernie's campaign actually told Levi not to run. Bernie's campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, went as far as to declare that Levi "really doesn't know much, to be honest with you."

What's up with Levi Sanders' 'extremely mad' social media posts?

Following Levi's 2018 announcement that he'd be running for Congress, critics wasted no time digging through his social media accounts, where they discovered a goldmine of controversial posts. As HuffPost proclaimed in March 2018, "Bernie Sanders' son is extremely mad online." Whether it's Facebook or Twitter, it seems that Levi doesn't have any qualms about criticizing others and getting into heated arguments online.

First up was the time he responded to news of an alleged video of President Trump using the N-word by tweeting, "I assure you, most working class families don't care about this issue." Or the time he slammed actor Shailene Woodley's Dakota Access Pipeline protest speech by tweeting, "Stop using this white privilege garbage. The white working class is getting crushed economically."

Over on Facebook, it wasn't much better, with HuffPost digging up stuff like Levi accusing Houston, Texas of having "one of the worst police forces in the country," and calling it "a shot hole," which given the context of the rest of his remarks about the Southern city, we can assume was a typo. But his most common target is meat. The outspoken vegetarian once berated a friend over a #MeatlessMonday post, commenting, "How about meatless weekly and you can still eat your disgusting flesh on weekends?" He also took Chobani to task for a photo of yogurt topped with bacon. "That is disgusting," he wrote, adding "Chobani should not support animals being slaughtered."

Levi Sanders tragically lost his wife

In October 2019, Levi Sanders suffered heartbreaking tragedy when his wife, Dr. Rainè Riggs, suddenly passed away at the age of 46. She died on October 5 — just three weeks after she began to feel ill and only two days after being diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer.

According to her obituary, Dr. Riggs was an accomplished doctor and philanthropist. She obtained a bachelor's degree in psychology from American University before enrolling in Harvard University and Brown University to pursue a master's in geriatric neuropsychology and clinical sleep medicine. She then went on to complete her doctorate in neuropsychology at the University of Vermont.

Passionate about giving back to the homeless, especially homeless veterans, Rainè met Levi while they were both volunteering at an emergency food shelter in Vermont. Her passing left Levi a widower — and a single father. The couple had three adoptive children — Sunnee, Ryleigh, and Grayson Riggs Sanders — and Dr. Riggs devoted her life to them. "Rainè's every thought was of her children," the obituary reads. "She truly strived to make every day of their lives special."