Karen Reis and Nuar Hegrat were “feelin’ the Bern” early Monday.
Just after 8 a.m., they joined more than a dozen friends from Lake County for a caravan to see Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential candidate, speak tonight in Sacramento.
Standing near the front of the line as the afternoon sun beat down, Reis led the group in a cheer for the Vermont senator.
“He is for the middle class,” said Reis, of Clear Lake, who works with the disabled. “And I am losing ground every year.”
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Sanders, who speaks Tuesday morning in Stockton, plans to press on though primary voting June 7 in California, despite his narrowing chance of defeating Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary. Among Sanders’ continuing objectives is pushing the party to embrace his more progressive positions ahead of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.
Reis, like many others lining the fence outside the venue Monday, described herself as “Bernie or bust,” meaning she won’t vote for Clinton. “If I have to write (Sanders) in, I will,” she said.
Hegrat said she doesn’t even want to imagine a presidential race without Sanders. But she likes the idea of Sanders “taking his power and his positions to the convention to be able to influence the platform.”
She also wants to see Sanders, who has been criticized for not being more involved with Democratic candidates and causes, using his large following to help progressive candidates running in down-ballot races.
“They haven’t forgotten the real issues facing real people,” she said.
As Hegrat spoke, the line behind her wound around the parking lot. Vendors sold t-shirts and buttons bearing Sanders’ likeness. A number of the Sanders faithful said they saw the senator in earlier states. Jeri Greenberg, a nurse from Fair Oaks, helped with the caucuses in Nevada.
She cited his support for expanding health care though a single-payer system, and maintaining and improving the ratios of nurses to their patients. “His values are nurses’ values,” Greenberg said.
Other young followers credited Sanders for spurring their new-found activism. Julia Pollex, 33 of Davis, said Sanders is unlike most politicians. “He’s like a real human being,” she said, describing him as anti-establishment.
“I wasn’t really into politics until Bernie came along,” she said.
Stephen Robinson, a first time voter from Sacramento, also pointed to Sanders and the movement he’s built as his motivation getting involved in the presidential election, however little influence California ultimately exerts.
“I support Bernie Sanders for free tuition, free healthcare and taking down these big banks,” he said. “We got to take these big banks out. We got to get money out of politics. We got to get America right again.”