(JTA) — Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent, has joined the Senate Democratic leadership.
Sanders was named chair of outreach for the party on Wednesday, according to reports on the closed-door Senate Democratic caucus meeting.
As an Independent, Sanders was an outsider to the Democratic Party until he ran for its presidential nomination this year. His campaign, which began in 2015, was deemed a long shot, but he garnered more than 40 percent of the primary votes and brought his challenge to eventual nominee Hillary Clinton to the Democratic National Convention in July.
Days before the convention, leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee showed staffers discussing how to hinder his candidacy.
Sanders’ campaign focused on addressing income inequality and targeted the country’s wealthiest echelon. In his new position, he will be in charge of reaching out to blue-collar voters who supported President-elect Donald Trump, a Republican, in last week’s election, The Hill reported.
Sanders was named to the position by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who was elected Senate Democratic leader, succeeding retiring Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada. This year Sanders became the first Jewish candidate to win a U.S. presidential primary and Schumer became the first Jewish politician to lead either party’s Senate caucus.
Schumer and Sanders are backing the candidacy of Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, a Muslim lawmaker, to be the next chairman of the DNC.
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin was re-elected as Senate Democratic whip.
On the Republican side, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell was reelected majority leader on Wednesday “by acclimation by his colleagues with a standing ovation,” the senator’s spokesman, Don Stewart, told The Hill.