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Politics

In San Diego, Bernie Sanders rails against inequality

Bernie Sanders
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke to thousands at Kimball Park in National City Saturday evening.
(San Diego Union-Tribune)

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders railed against corporate power in America before thousands of followers in National City on Saturday night just hours after making a more intimate visit to Friendship Park on the Mexican border.

The Vermont senator gave a sweeping speech that maintained the central theme of addressing inequality.

“I’m running for president because we are going to create an economy that works for all of us, not just wealthy campaign contributors,” Sanders said at yet another of his massive rallies, this one in Kimball Park with an estimated 10,000 attendees.

He said the goal of the campaign was ending “the rigged economy.”

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Sanders rarely mentioned his Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, though he did harshly criticize presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump. “We will not allow the Trumps of the world to divide us up,” he said.

Sanders has continued to campaign hard against Clinton, even though she is close to winning enough delegates to clinch the nomination. In an interview before his speech, Sanders said he believed Democrats would close ranks after the fissures that opened in the primaries.

“I think virtually every Democrat understands that Donald Trump would be a disaster for this country if he becomes president,” Sanders said. “We cannot have a president who insults every other day, Mexicans, Latinos, who insults Muslims, who insults women, who insults African-Americans, who, in a sense, is doing everything he can do divide us up.”

Sanders is the only man I love as much as my husband.
Carol Crawford, Sanders supporter

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It was his first rally in San Diego County since March, and he’s scheduled to make several more stops in the region in the coming days, starting Sunday afternoon with an event at Rancho Buena Vista High School in Vista. He’ll then head to Irvine. On Monday, he has rallies planned in Santa Monica and Anaheim, and later in the week in the Inland Empire.

In National City, Sanders talked about the need to reform the criminal justice system, bring people out of poverty, provide free college education and put more people to work helping to rebuild the nation’s aging infrastructure.

“We need a massive federal jobs program and [to] put people back to work at decent wages,” he said, reiterating his call for a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

Sanders urged a halt to what he considers unjust deportations. Before the rally, he issued a statement about his unannounced visit to Friendship Park, a meeting place for families and friends divided by the border.

“All of this tells us why we need comprehensive immigration reform,” Sanders said after hearing stories of families who can see their loved ones only on weekends.

“I would hope that the Republicans in Congress understand that we have a very, very broken immigration system and that it must be reformed and that they should in fact work with Democrats to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

“If not and if I am elected president of the United States, I will use the executive powers that the president has to do that the best that I can.”

As with all Sanders events, this rally drew a big crowd, with many arriving hours before it started.

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Carol and Martin Crawford showed up at about 3 p.m. from Temecula to get a good spot in the grassy field in front of Sanders’ stage. Natives of the United Kingdom, they became U.S. citizens in 2010 in part to vote for a second term for President Barack Obama. They both said they’re big Sanders supporters.

“Sanders is the only man I love as much as my husband,” Carol Crawford said.

Martin Crawford said he supports Sanders over Clinton because he has a clear vision for the country’s future, while Clinton’s isn’t defined.

Carol Crawford, who said she plans to volunteer for the campaign, said healthcare is the most important issue for her.

“It’s not just what matters for us but what matters for everyone,” she said.

Throughout his campaign, Sanders has called for healthcare as a matter of right rather than privilege.

Juan Torres of San Diego was leaning against a fence separating the crowd from the press pit. He said he doesn’t know who he’ll vote for, but it will be either Sanders or Clinton.

“We’re here to make up our minds,” he said.

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Sanders seems more candid and more authentic compared to Clinton, who seems well-polished and market-tested, Torres said. He added that Sanders’ unfinished feel makes him more relatable and likable.

Emilio Reyes, 30, said her reason for supporting Sanders is fairly simple. “He’s fighting for everything we believe in for a better future,” she said.

Reyes attended with Debbie Luna, 30, and Daisy Bravo, 17 — all members of San Diego Latinos Unidos Con Bernie (United for Bernie). The group has been meeting weekly leading up to the June primary to register voters — the deadline is Monday — and trying to collect money to lease office space somewhere in National City so they can set up shop.

The trio, all Chula Vista residents, said they support Sanders as the Democratic presidential candidate because they trust him when he says he is for all people.

“I couldn’t go to SDSU because I can’t afford it,” Luna said. “Bernie is for free education.”

Claudia Ferreira, another volunteer from San Diego Latinos, said that many of the citizens the organization speaks with are from Chula Vista, National City and San Ysidro.

“A lot of them said they are going to vote for Bernie,” she said. “Some of them even changed their party from Republican to Democrat because they want to vote for Bernie.”

Escondido resident Jeff Beeler, 59, said he came to participate in Saturday’s rally because it’s a critical election.

“There are such extreme points of view,” he said. “I’m impressed with Bernie’s record. He’s been consistently for the people since he’s been in office. I think Bernie has the people’s vote.”

Sanders is making a swing through a region that was Clinton country eight years ago. During her 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton won eight of the 10 counties in Southern California, losing to Barack Obama in just Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. She won the state with 52 percent of the vote.

Not looking to give up any ground this year and hoping to decisively win the largest and last state primary, the Clinton campaign opened eight offices in California and is holding several rallies. The San Diego office opened Tuesday and is the first south of Democrat-rich Los Angeles. Bill Clinton spoke in Chula Vista and Pomona on Saturday, and Hillary Clinton will be campaigning in the Los Angeles area and the Inland Empire next week.

Hillary Clinton has picked up significant endorsements in the area, including that of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. All three of San Diego’s Democratic members in the House of Representatives have also endorsed her, as has former California Assembly speaker Toni Atkins.

joshua.stewart@sduniontribune.com

Stewart writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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