Head of first union to endorse Bernie Sanders suggests third-party run: 'How can he be loyal?'
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders pauses during a speech at a campaign event in Chicago, Illinois, September 28, 2015. (REUTERS/Jim Young)

Executive director of National Nurses United says splitting from Democratic party could be only response to DNC’s refusal to give him crucial voter data

One of Bernie Sanders’ biggest union supporters has called on him to consider running as an independent candidate if Democratic party leaders continue to refuse to give him access to his campaign’s voter records.

The Democratic National Committee suspended all access for the Sanders team to a shared database system as punishment for a data breach in which a number of staff accessed records belonging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign during a software glitch.

But in a further escalation of an already bitter row over the breach, Sanders’ supporters claim the heavy-handed response of the party leadership is further evidence of their repeated efforts to favor Clinton’s campaign and “sabotage” the insurgent Sanders threat.

RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, said splitting from the party could be the only response if access to crucial voter information is not restored.

“If he doesn’t get access to his voter list, what choice does he have?,” she said, stressing she was speaking in a personal capacity, not the union. “I think that’s crossing a lot of people’s minds if the process is so rigged.

“Personally -- and I can’t speak for the organization on this -- if I were in his situation I can’t see that I would have any choice,” aded DeMoro, whose union was the first to endorse Sanders. If he is denied access to his voter base, what choice does he have. If the process in the Democratic party is this rigged, how can he be loyal?”

Asked about such a possibility during an earlier press conference at campaign headquarters in Washington, campaign manager Jeff Weaver declined to respond.

However, Sanders has far fewer ties to the party than most nominees, having long served as an independent senator for Vermont.

The prospect, however remote for now, also mirrors tensions within the Republican party, where outsider Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to run as a independent candidate if he is not treated fairly by the party.

But DeMoro, known as one of the more outspoken and leftwing figures in organized labor, accused the DNC of going far further by taking unprecedented step of suspending access to voter data just days before Iowa.

“This campaign has been so biased from the beginning. It’s sabotage. It’s continuous. They make the Republicans look Democratic,” she said. “We are at a rupture here in democracy and the Democratic party.

“It’s a strategy for demobilization, but what it’s going to do is have exactly the opposite effect,” she added. “They have mis-stepped so severely with the populist base that they could lose this base forever. If the DNC is this disloyal to us, why should we be loyal to the DNC?”