Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders blazed through the state on a three-stop whirlwind tour last week. A rainbow of people of all colors, shapes and ages stood in line for many hours at each venue to see the Democratic candidate.
About 3,500 people gathered in Santa Fe. Albuquerque drew more than 7,000 people. Vado’s outdoor rally in the mid-day sun had about 5,000 people. Sanders spoke for about an hour at each rally. “I love all of you and I love your energy,” Sanders said.
Along with Native American singers and dancers, Jim Hightower opened the indoor rallies in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. “When your pickup truck breaks down, you don’t take it in for a paint job do you? No, you take it in for an overhaul,” Hightower said during his rousing opening.
Alexander Burnside, a Marine veteran and son of immigrants, opened the rally held in Vado, a small colonia in southern New Mexico. “I have supported Bernie for a long time because I know he is honest. And that he is here to work for us, not for special interests,” Burnside said to the thousands attending the outdoor rally.
When Sanders took the stage at the Albuquerque Convention Center he drew loud cheers saying, “It looks to me like Albuquerque is ready for a political revolution.” “Viva Bernie! Viva Bernie! Viva Bernie!” the crowd responded. Sanders attracted a large number of young people who said they are drawn to him because he is strong on issues such as raising the minimum wage and making public college free. Others praised him for being the only presidential candidate that has not taken money from super PACs and corporations. “Our vision, a vision of social justice, economic justice, racial justice and environmental justice—that vision resting on the shoulders of young people is the future of America,” Sanders said.
Addressing Native American issues, Sanders acknowledged that they had been lied to by the government. “This has caused irreparable damage,” he said, and promised that there would be positive change in the relationship between Native Americans and the federal government. “As human beings we are part of nature. We must live with nature, not destroy nature,” he said. Sanders sounded familiar with New Mexico’s struggles with education, poverty and other issues holding folks down. “I want every child in New Mexico to know if they study hard and do well that regardless of their family income they will be able to get a college education,” he said.
Sanders even touched on hot button local issues like police shootings, saying, “Shooting should be the last response, not the first.” Immigration reform is another hot topic in New Mexico. Sanders said he wanted to bring families together and end deportation policies. “Real change happens from the bottom up,” he said.
As New Mexico nears its June 7 primary, Sanders faces a self-acknowledged uphill battle for the Democratic nomination against former Secretary of State and US Senator Hillary Clinton. Some political observers believe Clinton will clinch the nomination on that primary night, with possible wins in New Jersey and California. Despite this, Sanders says he is the best candidate and will stay in the race until the last ballot is cast.
Sanders is not the only candidate to swing through New Mexico. Republican candidate Donald Trump rolled through town on Tuesday. The same day, former President Bill Clinton campaigned for his wife, Hillary, in Española and on Wednesday made an appearance at an Albuquerque-area community center.