MANCHESTER — The Bernie Sanders presidential campaign in New Hampshire emerged from the weekend with a major reboot that included the departure of a longtime adviser and shipping his state director south to Massachusetts.
The Vermont senator and landslide winner of the 2016 Democratic primary, Sanders signaled the significance of this shakeup by installing as the next New Hampshire chief Shannon Jackson, his 2018 Senate campaign manager who was a constant presence during his last White House run.
The shocker locally was the departure of Kurt Ehrenberg, a senior adviser to Sanders for 2020 who was on the ground floor and helped build the 2016 steering committee for Sanders.
Years earlier Ehrenberg, as political director of the state AFL-CIO union, helped Sanders land speaking spots and private meetings with labor leaders such as union president and ex-State Rep. Mark MacKenzie, who also ended up on the Sanders steering committee in 2016.
Ehrenberg confirmed during a telephone interview that he clashed with New Hampshire State Director Joe Caiazzo and in frustration had asked to leave the campaign as of the end of this month.
“Mr. Caiazzo and I had fundamental disagreements on how to wage a successful campaign for Senator Sanders in New Hampshire,” Ehrenberg said.
According to sources, Ehrenberg had this summer been sidelined from making public appearances for the campaign, indicating Caiazzo initially won a power struggle over the direction of the campaign.
What changed over the weekend was Sanders decided to move Caiazzo out and have him manage the presidential campaign in Massachusetts, where he was a resident.
In a statement, Faiz Shakir, Sanders’ national campaign manager, cast this as moving people into the right roles heading into these critical months prior to the first voting in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Sanders campaign officials point out Caiazzo can help create a campaign team to compete in the home state of rival Mass. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has surged right behind Sanders and Joe Biden in some New Hampshire polls.
“We’ve built a great team in NH and are in a really strong position there. The campaign is now building out our operations to include Massachusetts and Maine state directors as we increase our focus in Super Tuesday states,” Shakir said.
“We are running a 50-state campaign, taking no state or voters for granted and expanding our operations to secure the Democratic nomination.”
But several sources said Caiazzo’s “reassignment” came after many Sanders activists complained the 2020 NH campaign boss was giving no attention or support to those who helped Sanders win big nearly four years ago.
The announcement of these changes was made at a meeting of the Sanders steering committee Sunday.
Earlier, sources said longtime Sanders loyalists held a strategy session at the Hooksett home of former state lawmaker Eileen and Bob Ehlers to air grievances about the direction of the 2020 campaign.
Both Ehlers were with Sanders in 2016.
The couple could not be reached for comment.
Caiazzo worked in Rhode Island and Massachusetts during the 2016 campaign and some Sanders supporters were openly concerned Warren’s New Hampshire campaign was systematically peeling away much of his past core support.
“Look at the turnout she had at the convention in Manchester,” one Sanders supporter said. “She’s having New Hampshire people run a New Hampshire campaign and you can see the difference.”
The early reaction to the new leadership for Sanders here is positive as Jackson is a resident of Burlington, Vt.
In 2016 he was Northeast political director for Sanders.
Jackson was also considered for many months during the 2016 race the candidate’s “body man” who would carry critical briefing papers and constantly be at his side.
Those backing Sanders point out while he has not broken out in the polls he’s still the runaway leader in New Hampshire on the number of resident donors to his campaign.
Much of this is the struggle for any candidate who is trying to duplicate the 2016 success he had here but at the same time rewrite the history that comes after that.
Shakir said building that 50-state strategy is critical to avoid a repeat of what Clinton did to Sanders when she rolled up win after win in bigger delegate-rich states that followed the first-in-the-nation primary.