Sen. Bernie Sanders filed his paperwork without issue in New Hampshire Thursday to appear on the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary ballot.
The longtime Vermont independent senator faced no challenges at Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s office, despite earlier concerns about whether he legally qualified as a Democrat. Sanders declared himself a Democrat Thursday, and he said he will run as a Democrat in future elections. That was good enough for Garnder.
“I'm a Democrat and should be on the ballot, I don't think I need to say too much more,” Sanders said.
The chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, Ray Buckley, accompanied Sanders and vowed to fight any challenges. Sanders brought a lawyer and a statement from the Vermont Democratic Party chair vouching for him as well, just in case. The precautions were unnecessary, however, as the senator signed the proper paperwork and delivered his fee to applause, joking that he felt like the president signing a bill.
Afterward, Sanders rallied with about 750 supporters in Concord.
Someone could still file a challenge before the New Hampshire ballot law commission, which Buckley said he would fight. Sanders has run as an independent in every previous election he's won, and he almost never attended a Democratic Party event until launching his presidential run. He caucuses with Democrats in the Senate, but is technically an independent. He did not, however, have to change his voter registration, since Vermont has no party registration.
One of Sanders' rivals, former Gov. Martin O’Malley, filed his paperwork Wednesday, and front-runner Hillary Clinton will come to the Granite State Monday to do the same. Buckley accompanied O’Malley and will Clinton as well.
Speaking with reporters briefly, Sanders said he could be a better general election candidate than Clinton. “When you look at Bernie Sanders against somebody like Donald Trump or against other Republican candidates, more often than not, not always, but more often than not, I do better than Secretary Clinton does,” he said.
All three Democratic candidates head to South Carolina next for a forum hosted by the state Democratic Party and MSNBC Friday.