Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) political action committee (PAC) will expand its' fundraising efforts to aid progressive and independent candidates at the state level in conservative Southern states, In These Times reported on Wednesday.

"There is no shortage of billionaires willing to bankroll extreme right-wing candidates," Sanders writes in a fundraising letter (PDF) on behalf of his group, Progressive Voters of America. "We have to respond."

The added emphasis on prospective state-level lawmakers comes after the group has raised around $300,000 over the past three election cycles for congressional candidates. Sanders also told In These Times he has not ruled out a presidential run of his own in 2016.

"I suppose if you're running for president, probably going to Mississippi and Alabama is not the place most candidates would go," Sanders said to In These Times. "You go to Iowa and New Hampshire or something like that. But what I do think is there needs to be a progressive voice in the presidential process. I hope very much there will be a voice coming up to do that."

Sanders was also quoted from his recent speaking tour of four Southern cities, in which he revisited his recent remarks criticizing the Democratic Party for not accounting for their supporters in the region.

"I believe that in every state in the country the vast majority of the people are working people," Sanders is quoted as saying. "These are people who are struggling to keep their heads above water economically, these are people who want Social Security defended, they want to raise the minimum wage, they want changes in our trade policy. And to basically concede significant parts of America, including the South, to the right-wing is to me not only stupid politics, but even worse than that -- you just do not turn your backs on millions and millions of working people."

[Image via Current TV]