The California Nurses Association flexes significant muscle in California politics, and union members roared when Bernie Sanders, the union-backed candidate, took to a lectern on Tuesday at a small event here.
Five rows back in a sea of red shirts, Robyn Duffy marveled at a union she said can “get wild … get crazy.”
But Duffy, who moved to Oakland from Vermont in 2011, had come less for the CNA than for the memory of her late grandmother, who used to call Sanders on the phone. He was the mayor of Burlington and a U.S. congressman before winning election to the U.S. Senate in 2006.
“She would literally call his office when her Meals on Wheels wasn’t delivered,” Duffy said. “And he would call her back.”
Growing up in Vermont, said Duffy, now 45 and a nurse, “I didn’t pay much attention to politics, but I just kept hearing his name growing up all the time.”
Duffy supported Sanders’ liberal policies on healthcare and the environment, among other issues, and when he got into the presidential race, she volunteered for a political campaign for the first time in her life.
“There’s something real to him,” she said.
Barring an extraordinary upheaval, Sanders will lose the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton. But the California primary is still a week off, and the Democratic National Convention doesn’t come until July. Duffy was trying to get a photograph of the senator. She said, “I’m still hopeful, because miracles can happen.”
Her husband, Chad Mills, was sitting next to her.
He had youthful memories of Sanders, too. He worked as a mechanic in the 1990s and said he serviced a Saturn car Sanders owned.
Said Duffy: “See, he buys American.”