An Idaho man is raising money to commission a statue of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, which he hopes to place in Burlington.
Al Asker, 45, of Boise, Idaho, doesn’t have a specific spot in mind yet, but he is hoping to commission an 8-foot marble statue of the senator and former presidential candidate. This will cost about $450,000, including the statue’s base, shipping and handling.
If the fundraising fails to meet that goal, Asker’s Plan B is an 8-foot bronze statue for $150,000, he said. As of Tuesday, two people had donated a total of $54 in the 20 days.
“I feel a deep swell of American pride when I think of Bernie Sanders,” Asker wrote on his fundraiser page through Generosity.com. “He is what our Founding Fathers meant all representatives to be: a public servant rather than a paid-off career politician.”
Asker, in an interview last week, said he became a supporter of Sanders during the primary debates against Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. Before then, he had every intention of voting for Clinton, Asker said.
Asker added that Sanders’ beliefs on health care and college education funding appealed most to him.
“There was no comparison, when you compared her to Bernie Sanders and his speeches,” Asker said. “I was like, well now Bernie’s my guy.”
Asker said he was “livid” when Clinton got the nomination and there was suspicion the Democratic party tried to undermine Sanders’ campaign.
Sanders’ call for public involvement in all levels of government and politics stuck with Asker. He said he recently got involved with his own state’s Democratic party and won a seat as a precinct captain, which helps encourage people to vote.
Asker said he is hoping to commission the statue through sculptor Benjamin Victor, who has his studio at Boise State University. Asker said he has never visited Burlington, so he doesn’t have a place in mind yet for the statue. However, he feels Burlington would be the best place for the statue.
“I’m really kind of surprised that someone hasn’t thought of this before or brought this up before,” Asker said.
Dan McLean of Sanders’ office declined to comment on the fundraiser on Monday.
Cindi Wight, the director of Burlington’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Waterfront, said that if the Sanders statue is bound for a park, Asker could put a request in with her department. The statue would likely be accepted as “art,” and the department would probably ask Sanders’ office if it would like to participate in the process.
“It has to fit Burlington, but Bernie fits Burlington,” Wight said. “With his long-standing career as mayor and obviously his long-standing (position) representing Vermont, I think that’s a pretty comfortable fit for Burlington.”
Other statues and monuments in Burlington commemorating people include musician Big Joe Burrell on Church Street outside Halvorson’s Upstreet Cafe, Civil War General William W. Wells in Battery Park, a monument of Ethan Allen in Greenmount Cemetery, and Samuel de Champlain on Champlain College’s campus.
Wight said that she does not see a statue of Sanders as being a political statement rather than art even though Sanders is still alive. There would be a process where members of Burlington City Arts and the Parks Department, if parks are involved, would determine whether the statue was a good fit.
Asker’s fundraiser can be found at www.generosity.com/memorial-fundraising/a-statue-to-honor-senator-bernie-sanders.
Contact Elizabeth Murray at 651-4835 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @LizMurrayBFP.