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Bernie Sanders ‘doing well’ after heart procedure in Las Vegas

Updated October 2, 2019 - 2:05 pm

Bernie Sanders’ campaign said Wednesday that the Democratic presidential candidate had a heart procedure for a blocked artery and canceled events and appearances “until further notice.”

The 78-year-old Sanders was in Las Vegas when, according to a campaign statement, he experienced chest discomfort during a campaign event Tuesday and sought medical evaluation. Two stents were “successfully inserted” and Sanders “is conversing and in good spirits,” according to the campaign.

Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom, who attended the fundraiser, said Sanders appeared to be fine during the event at Shiraz restaurant in Spring Valley, which started around 7 p.m.

Sanders spoke for about 30 minutes and then answered audience questions for another 30 minutes. During the latter period, he asked for a chair so he could sit down but continued taking queries and responding without any interruption, he said.

“He could have been feeling something, but it was not visible,” Segerblom said. “I’ve been watching the guy since 2014. There was nothing.”

Segerblom said he did not know where Sanders was receiving medical treatment. Sanders’ campaign said the candidate was recovering at a Las Vegas hospital.

The Vermont senator was in Las Vegas for campaign events. He was at the Healing Garden in downtown Las Vegas on Tuesday as part of events and observances for the Oct. 1 mass shooting on the Strip. He was to attend a gun violence candidates’ forum on Wednesday with other Democratic candidates but was forced to cancel after his surgery.

Sanders’ wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, was en route to Las Vegas on Wednesday and said in an email to The Associated Press that her husband was “doing really well.”

The Wall Street Journal quoted a spokesman for Sanders’ campaign as saying that the candidate did not have a heart attack, but later updated its story to add a quote that further tests would be required to confirm that.

The Democratic field’s oldest candidate, Sanders sometimes jokingly refers to his age at town halls and other events, especially when interacting with younger participants. His aides have tried to project him as a candidate with energy levels that surpassed his 2016 presidential campaign.

He is one of three candidates over age 70 in the Democratic primary, which has spurred debate over whether the party should rally behind a new generation of political leaders.

Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, was on a telephone call with supporters Tuesday night but didn’t mention any health concerns about the candidate. Shakir said the “state of the campaign is strong” and he played up Sanders’ strong fundraising total for the third quarter. The Vermont Senator’s campaign raised $25 million, the highest among the candidates who have reported so far, and scheduled its first television ads in Iowa. On Wednesday, it suspended those spots, too.

Sanders recently canceled some appearances in South Carolina because he lost his voice. The campaign said at the time he felt fine.

During the first debate in June, Sanders heatedly defended his 76-year-old rival, Joe Biden, after California Rep. Eric Swalwell, 38, said it was time to step aside for a new generation. Sanders told reporters later the question smacked of “ageism.”

“The issue is, who has the guts to take on Wall Street, to take on the fossil fuel industry, to take on the big money interests who have unbelievable influence over the economic and political life of this country?” Sanders said on the stage that night.

The health issue comes as Sanders’ campaign has been trying to turn a corner after a summer that saw him eclipsed as the leading liberal in the field by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 70. Sanders has dropped well behind Warren and Biden in most polls and recently reshuffled his staffing in early states to become more competitive.

“Given his recent stalls in the polls, the timing is pretty bad here,” Democratic strategist Jim Manley said of Sanders’ heart procedure.

Sanders’ rivals were quick to wish him well. “We want to send our best wishes for a quick recovery to @BernieSanders today,” tweeted Julian Castro, an Obama administration housing chief.

Added Sen. Kamala Harris of California: “If there’s one thing I know about him, he’s a fighter, and I look forward to seeing him on the campaign trail soon.”

Sanders mounted an insurgent campaign against Hillary Clinton for the party’s nomination in 2016. He is a top contender in the 2020 primary, and announced Tuesday that he raised more than $25 million over the past three months. But he is facing stiff competition from former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who have overtaken him in many polls.

Sanders is not the first candidate to face health issues in recent years while seeking the presidency. Clinton had to take time off from campaigning in 2016 after being treated for pneumonia.

In 2000, former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, the leading Democratic challenger to then-Vice President Al Gore, had to cut short a campaign swing for treatment of an atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that is treatable but potentially serious. Bradley later resumed his campaign.

Review-Journal staff writer Michael Scott Davidson and The Associated Press and contributed to this report.

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