Sanders Unbowed in Arizona Despite Losses

     
PHOENIX (CN) – Sen. Bernie Sanders was unbowed in Phoenix Tuesday night as primary results in four of five states went against him, telling a large and enthusiastic crowd of supporters that he’s leading a political revolution in which they’ll have a role to play in just one week’s time.
     Arizona is one of three states – plus a U.S. territory that will be holding presidential preference contests on March 22.
     In Arizona 85 delegates are in play in the Democratic race, and these will be distributed proportionally based on vote totals.
     However, the Republican contest in Arizona is a winner-take-all battle for 58 delegates.
     Also next Tuesday, Utah will hold caucuses for both parties, Idaho will host a Democratic caucus, and American Samoa will hold its Republican convention at which a vote on the candidates will be taken.
     Last night Sanders, with his wife Jane, entered the Phoenix Convention Center just after 6 p.m. local time, shortly after polls closed in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio.
     “This is a huge crowd,” Sanders proclaimed. “And, this is a loud crowd.”
     Sanders did not reference rival Hillary Clinton’s unfolding primary wins during his remarks, instead focusing on what he intends to do as president.
     “Phoenix, are you ready for a political revolution? Are you tired of a handful of billionaires running our economy?” Sanders asked. “Well, if you are, you’ve come to the right place.”
     Sanders extolled gains his campaign has made against Clinton, claiming his message of “telling the truth” has resonated with voters.
     “We started this campaign at three percent in the national polls,” Sanders said. “We have come a long way in 10 months.”
     Polling data on the candidates is limited in Arizona, but one taken in February of 739 Democratic voters by the Phoenix-based MBQF Consulting showed Clinton with 56 percent of the vote to Sanders’ 22 percent, and 22 percent of voters undecided.
     Clinton leads Sanders in the race for delegates, with 1,074 to Sanders’ 762. To win the nomination, a candidate must have 2,383 delegates.
     Doors opened to the Convention Center at 1 p.m. in preparation for the evening rally, and by noon there were about 1,500 people in line, including Jenny Perez, 22, and her aunt, Griselda Nuñez.
     “I had the day off, and Jenny asked me to drive her,” Nuñez said. “I vote, but not every time. I like Hillary, she is very strong.”
     Perez, a first-time voter, shook her head at her aunt’s mention of Clinton.
     “[Hillary] doesn’t understand what normal people deal with,” Perez said. “She’s not connected with anyone my age.”
     Perez, a part-time student at Gateway Community College and full-time employee at a call center, likes Sanders’ plans to make college tuition free.
     “It would be nice to afford to go to school full time, and not need two or three jobs to get a degree,” Perez explained.
     Education was also on the mind of Austin Johnson, a 34-year-old bartender, who came to the rally alone.
     “I don’t really like to talk about politics,” Johnson said. “People get so angry and it doesn’t do any good.”
     Johnson is undecided on who he will vote for – Sanders or Clinton – but likes Sanders ideas on college and raising the minimum wage.
     “I’ve got a kid and I want him to have better opportunities than I had his age,” Johnson said.
     “You can’t make it on $8, $9 an hour,” Sanders told the crowd Tuesday night. “That’s why we are going to raise the minimum wage to a livable wage, $15 per hour.”
     Mark and Ann Patton, a retired couple, made the two-hour drive from Flagstaff to Phoenix for the rally. The Pattons, who recently moved from Massachusetts to Arizona, were decked out for the event in matching light blue “Bernie For President” T-shirts.
     “Without a doubt, Bernie is for us,” Ann said, describing herself and her husband as “lifelong Democrats.”
     “Everyone talks about the changes the Republican Party is going through with Trump as the leader, but for Bernie to be a viable candidate against Hillary, that shows a significant change in the Democratic Party,” Mark said.
     Sanders made a number of references in his speech to Arizona’s Hispanic community, which makes up 20 percent of Arizona’s eligible voters.
     “This campaign is listening to the Latino community,” Sanders said. “What the Latino community is telling me is they are tired of living in the shadows, they are tired of living in fear of being exploited, they want and I want comprehensive immigration reform and a path toward citizenship.”
     Sanders’ campaign has struggled since its infancy to appeal to minority voters, but a number of Hispanic leaders in Arizona have endorsed Sanders, including Rep. Raúl Grijalva. Grijalva, a Democrat, is serving his seventh term in a district that spans parts of Tucson, Yuma and Phoenix.
     “Bernie is my friend and beyond friendship I agree with his values,” Grijalva told a crowd of 13,000 at an October rally in Tucson. “I agree with the solutions that he is bringing to the American people.”
     State Sen. Martin Quezada and Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo have also endorsed Sanders.
     “Next week Arizona has a very important election,” Sanders said. “We will win if the voter turnout is high. Let’s make it high.”
     Tuesday’s rally marked Sanders’ second visit to Phoenix since announcing his campaign. His wife, Jane, spent the weekend in the state, visiting Oak Flat near Superior, Ariz. on Saturday.
     Oak Flat, a site of religious and historical important to the San Carlos Apache tribe, was promised to an Australian-British mining company in 2014 as part of a rider in the National Defense Authorization Act. The site was named to the National Register of Historic Places this month, and is the subject of a bill sponsored by Sanders and Grijalva to reverse the land deal.
     Jane Sanders also visited with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio at his infamous Tent City jail, where hundreds of inmates are housed outdoors in military tents.

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