DUMMERSTON, Vt. — Political activist Peter Diamondstone, who helped found the Vermont political party that first launched Bernie Sanders for office in the 1970s, has died at age 82.
Diamondstone, a perennial political candidate and the co-founder in 1970 of the anti-war Liberty Union Party, defined as a nonviolent socialist party, died Wednesday, his daughter said.
“Peter’s life of service in the struggle to protect human rights and our nation’s Constitution began at an early age and continued through his last weeks,” his family said.
Diamondstone frequently ran for office in Vermont. In 2014, he told The Associated Press his run for governor that year was likely his 23rd total run for five statewide offices since the start of the party. He also had been escorted from events for using profanities and was arrested for crashing candidate forums to which he wasn’t invited.
None of the Liberty Union candidates, including Diamondstone, has been close to winning. But Diamondstone said victory was not the goal.
Sanders ran for U.S. Senate and governor two times each in the 1970s as a Liberty Union candidate but never received more than 6 percent of the vote. In 1981, though, Sanders ran as an independent for mayor of Burlington and won.
Sanders said he had not had any real contact with Diamondstone in many years.
“Peter was a very independent thinker, unafraid to express his (often controversial) point of view on any subject,” Sanders said in a statement. “As a result, he forced people to examine and defend their own positions. No small thing. In his own way, Peter played an important role in Vermont politics for many decades.”
Republican Gov. Phil Scott said Thursday that Diamondstone was very committed.
“I remember watching him on past debates through the years, before I was even interested in politics,” Scott said. “I’m always impressed by those who continued to have a message that they really believe in.”
A celebration of Diamondstone’s life will take place Saturday at the site of the family’s former home in West Brattleboro.