CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CN) – Presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders spoke about racism, Medicare and unfair elections, but drove home his prominent theme of unity on Friday, working to motivate voters ahead of the Democratic primaries on the campaign trail.
The Vermont senator’s evening rally took place on a lawn on the Central Piedmont Community College campus in Charlotte, North Carolina — the same grassy square where fellow Democratic hopeful Beto O’Rourke held a much smaller rally just a few weeks prior.
Sanders motored to the Queen City soon after constituents trickled from a riverside venue in Asheville, called the Salvage Station, where the hopeful hosted his first of two rallies in North Carolina on Friday.
Residents throughout North Carolina’s mountains, piedmont and coastal regions face a patchwork quilt of issues and barriers that uniquely affects each and every community. Many topics of interest or calls for reform in the state have been addressed by recently visiting 2020 candidates, and resonate more broadly with some voters nationwide.
While Sanders stuck with talking points found in his usual stump speech, such as his position that wealthy corporations hold too much power over the majority of citizens, some of these issues he emphasized on Friday are more intensely relatable to residents of Charlotte.
According to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force, Charlotte ranked last in upward mobility out of 50 of America’s largest cities.
Sanders is the eighth candidate of 24 to rally in the Carolinas during the 2020 campaign cycle. His first trip, he said, was four years ago. That was a time, Sanders told attendees on Friday, that no one believed him when he said states could double their minimum wage.
Facing a skyline dominated by towers that house large corporate headquarters, Sanders said he will work to end racial disparities and institutionalized racism.
“Today is about cementing support,” Ohio Democratic state Sen. Nina Turner told rally goers before Sanders took the stage.
In supporting equitable justice, Turner said, Sanders is a “long distance runner” and that “we have the receipts” to show his longtime focus on equality.
Turner added, in line with Sanders’ later statement, that education should receive better funding in North Carolina. This comes after teachers and public education advocates rallied for better funding, among other demands, through the state’s capital in April.
Turner and other speakers, including Sanders, said unity and direct action through casting votes are the only ways to create a better country.
“At the end of the day 1% is 1% and 99% are a hell of a lot more people,” he said.
Sanders also spent well received words condemning recently passed abortion-related bills in Alabama and Georgia. He said the bills that significantly limit the ability of women to seek safe and legal abortions are grotesque, regressive and can potentially kill women.
“Republicans who support this type of legislation are hypocrites,” Sanders said on Friday. He added the same people who argue for abortion restrictions on the Senate floor claim to oppose “big government.”
Retired stock car racing driver and environmental activist Leilani Maaja Münter was one of four speakers to kick off Sander’s crowded rally in Charlotte.
Racing has been mentioned during Charlotte campaign events a few times during this cycle, given the city is home to a NASCAR headquarters, but Münter’s speech was less about sports than it was renewable energy. She now drives an electric car and dedicates her life to supporting the environment, she said, in agreement with Sanders’ stance on climate change.