Sanders Storms West With Wins in California, Colorado & Utah

(CN) – The whole wild west is feeling the Bern. As western Super Tuesday states trickle in, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders added California to wins in Utah and Colorado, contributing to the western wall he is hoping to build between himself and former Vice President Joe Biden’s early East Coast victories.

A whopping 81% of the Golden State’s 20.4 million registered voters are expected to vote in the primary. Although Sanders is projected to win with voters previously wooed by Hillary Clinton in 2016, many voters weighed their options in hour-long lines.

Multiple sources called the race in favor of Sanders as soon as polls closed and with 43% of precincts reporting the California Secretary of State’s office had him with 30% of the vote, followed by Biden at 20% and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg at 17%.

Sanders is expected to net 200 of the state’s 415 delegates.

In Pasadena’s historic City Hall earlier in the day, voting took place inside the council chambers decorated with wood and brass. Outside the chambers stretched a slow-moving line.

Emerging with an “I voted” sticker, Verona Tang said she cast her ballot for Bloomberg.

“I’m in business. Not all businesspeople are bad, not all businesspeople are wealthy,” Tang said. “It’s not fair to keep beating up on business.”

Tang, a 43-year-old native of Taiwan, runs a small wholesale business that offers Asian products such as dried seaweed to restauranteurs in Los Angeles. “We want someone more balanced, not super-right or super-left.”

Walking to the stairway that led away from the voting area, but without a sticker, Debbie Muimarian, 56, a personal trainer with her own business, said she had been a Republican.

“The Republican Party does not align with my thinking,” she said, describing herself as a compassionate conservative.

She described her voting as “strategic.” She had tried to register as an independent but wound up designated by the county registrar as an American Independent, a far-right party she does not support.

She planned to switch to the Democratic Party and vote for Biden after work and before the polls closed Tuesday. “I am hopeful,” she said of Biden. “I just think he is a good person.”

“Bernie!” said Ariana, a design student in her 20s. “He’s more consistent and on the liberal side.”

She voted for him four years ago, as well. “I agree with him on health care, and he seems more open to queer people.”

She found Biden “too conservative and a little inconsistent.” She was with friends taking photos of the Mediterranean Revival-style City Hall built in the 1920s, having voted earlier by mail.

Similarly, Edith Oregel, who is Hispanic and the youngest employee at the Pasadena office of Courthouse News, voted for Sanders.

“He gives us hope, on the left side,” she said. “My mom, my family likes him. They can’t vote. I’m giving them a voice, too.”

Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the most populous state, has moved to electronic voting machines after the 2016 election which was conducted with paper ballots and ink punches. The move had the clear effect of suppressing the vote.

During a 20-minute time span, three people walked away from the 1.5-hour line to vote.

“Too long in line,” said one. “Too long,” said another, “I’m going to wait until after work.” “It’s too long,” said the third.

Inside the council chambers, three volunteers used computer screens, where formerly four times that many volunteers used paper lists, to confirm a voter’s identity and print out a ballot. Voters then used computer touch screens to cast their ballot, a process that took four to five times longer than the voting with ink punch cards.

In San Diego County’s 50th Congressional District, 10 candidates faced off to replace Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter, who resigned after pleading guilty to misusing campaign funds. Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar earned 34% of votes, as of 11 p.m. Pacific, with Republicans Carl DeMaio and Darrell Issa trailing in the 20s. In California’s so-called “jungle primary,” the top two vote-getters square off in November.

To the chagrin of state Democrats, President Donald Trump was on the California ballot as well but faced no real competition in the state he lost to Clinton by 4 million votes. In late 2019, the California Supreme Court tossed a new law requiring Trump and other presidential candidates to release their taxes to gain access to the statewide primary ballot.

“Given the low unemployment rate, the generally good economic figures, even though lots of people are still not doing well, that would usually bode well for the president,” added Luna, of UCSD, qualifying it with, “if it wasn’t for all the drama, if you took away all the things the president does with things like Ukraine, the impeachment, and all of the tweets and the rest.”

Trump did take a dip in Utah thanks to Sen. Mitt Romney, the only Republican to vote in favor of convicting Trump during impeachment proceedings in the Senate. Only 88% of Utah Republicans voted in favor of Trump with 6% weighing in favor of former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.

With 28% of Utah precincts reporting, Sanders snatched up 35% of the vote, trailed by Bloomberg, Biden and Warren in the teens.

Whether Sanders or any of the other candidates are best poised to challenge Trump in November depends on campaign strategy, said Dr. Carl Luna, a professor of political science at the University of San Diego-Mesa.

“Do you do the old median voter approach where you try to converge, to grab the independents and the swing voters in the center,” Luna said. “Or do you go for a base election and try to really increase the turn out of your core constituency which is for the Democrats more progressive than it was and the Republicans has become more conservative.”

Although Trump unsurprisingly won 93% of the GOP vote in Colorado, it’s worth noting that Republican turnout was only slightly smaller than that of Democrats.

With 82% of Colorado precincts reporting, Sanders earned the votes of 36% of Colorado Democrats, followed by Biden at 23% and Bloomberg at 22%.

Volunteers at the Sanders campaign headquarters on East Colfax in Denver spent the afternoon hanging posters and phone banking to last minute voters.

Although some centrist Democrats are worried about Sanders’ electability in a general election, he proudly wears the labels populist, activist and socialist, has grown a strong grassroots base of supporters.

“Joe Biden thinks Trump is an abomination and that everything will just go back to normal after Trump, but the country is a result of corporate interests interfering with both parties,” said Miguel Valdez, a volunteer on the Sanders campaign in Denver.

“Trump is like a wart; if you just remove the head, you’re not going to fix the problem.  You have to go for the roots,” added Valdez, who canvassed for Sanders in the 2016 election when he beat Hillary Clinton with 59% of the vote.

Way, way out west in American Samoa, Bloomberg’s investment in campaign ads paid off even as he struggled to gain traction on the U.S. mainland. Bloomberg won four of the five delegates in the territory with just under 50% of the vote. Hawaii Sen. Tulsi Gabbard won the remaining delegate with 29.3% of the Pacific island vote.

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