Main Stream Media writes positive Bernie Sanders story (in Saturday edition)

Bernie Sanders has raised more money from Latino donors than any of his Democratic rivals and he leads the field with Latino support in a new poll.

Volunteers gathered for training at Bernie Sanders’s field office in East Los Angeles. His campaign advisers said no ethnic voting bloc is as important as Latinos, particularly in California.
Volunteers gathered for training at Bernie Sanders’s field office in East Los Angeles. His campaign advisers said no ethnic voting bloc is as important as Latinos, particularly in California.Credit…Rozette Rago for The New York Times
Jennifer Medina

By Jennifer Medina

  • Nov. 8, 2019 (NYTimes.com)

LOS ANGELES — Three months before anyone starts voting in the Democratic primaries, advisers for Bernie Sanders are confident about the new voters they are registering in Iowa. They expect a decisive victory in New Hampshire, where Mr. Sanders, the senator from neighboring Vermont, is seen as a local. And in California, a state the campaign views as clearing a path to the nomination, they believe Mr. Sanders has a clear advantage with the not-so-secret weapon of Latino voters.

Mr. Sanders has collected more money from Latino voters than any other candidate in the Democratic field, raising three times as much from the group as Barack Obama did in 2008. He leads among Latino voters in a set of new surveys conducted by The New York Times Upshot and Siena College, receiving 28 percent of the Democratic primary vote in six swing states.

In fact, campaign advisers have made it clear: No other ethnic voting bloc is as important as Latinos.

Mr. Sanders may be a 78-year-old white senator from Vermont, the state with the lowest Latino population in the country, but many Latino voters see him as the candidate who best embodies their hopes.

“Tío Bernie,” they often call him, as if he were an affectionate uncle or a family friend.

They are loyal Bernie Sanders supporters and their adoration stretches back to 2015, during his first run for president. They have pored over old videos, delighting in the fact that his message has hardly changed in his decades in office. In his calls for equality, they hear echoes of their parents, some of whom immigrated for economic opportunities.

“We’re a community of struggle, and this is a man who knows struggle,” said Anthony Mercado, a 48-year-old maintenance worker, who wore a “Bernie 2016” T-shirt while sitting outside the East Los Angeles Sanders campaign office the day it opened last month. “Latinos have been promised things and then the winds change. But he’s been saying the same things ever since he started.”

Johnie's Coffee Shop, a Los Angeles diner that was used as a hub for Mr. Sanders's 2016 campaign. In May of that year, it was temporarily renamed Bernie’s Coffee Shop.
Johnie’s Coffee Shop, a Los Angeles diner that was used as a hub for Mr. Sanders’s 2016 campaign. In May of that year, it was temporarily renamed Bernie’s Coffee Shop.Credit…Rozette Rago for The New York Times

In Iowa and Nevada, the Sanders campaign believes that even a slightly increased Latino turnout in the states’ caucuses will deliver significantly more delegates to Mr. Sanders. And the campaign has several reasons to be optimistic. In 2016, Mr. Sanders prevailed in just one primary state where Latinos made up at least 15 percent of the population, but in several surveys of the 2020 field, Latino voters — expected to be the largest minority voting group — have indicated that they favor Mr. Sanders more than any other presidential candidate.

In a recent poll of likely Democratic voters from the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonpartisan research group, 39 percent of Latinos in California said they prefer Mr. Sanders, compared to 21 percent for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and 5 percent for Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Latinos make up 24 percent of likely Democratic voters in the state, according to the group.

The Sanders campaign has collected more money from Latino donors — both among individuals and total contributions — than any other campaign, raising four times as much from the group as the Warren campaign and five times as much as the Biden campaign, according to an analysis of ActBlue contributions by Juan M. Proaño, the chairof Plus Three, a fund-raising and technology group.

At a presidential forum sponsored by the League of United Latin American Citizens in Des Moines last month, Mr. Sanders spoke after Julián Castro, the former housing secretary, and Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman. Only Mr. Sanders received a standing ovation as he entered the room.

In Los Angeles, a core group of Sanders volunteers from 2016 has stayed involved in causes they care about — successfully campaigning for a $15 minimum wage, marching with teachers during a weeklong strike for higher salaries and lobbying for Medicaid for undocumented immigrants.

Now, they are further galvanized by President Trump’s divisive language and hard-line policies toward immigrants. They are pressing their parents and their neighbors to join them, volunteering their Spanish at phone banks and organizing in the heavily Latino suburbs east of Los Angeles.

“In most campaigns, Latinos are usually an afterthought — we’re explicitly saying this is a cornerstone of our campaign,” said Rafael Návar, the California state director for the Sanders campaign. Earlier this month, the campaign opened field offices in the Central Valley and the Inland Empire, two heavily Latino regions of the state that are often overlooked in national elections. “We’re running the biggest operation in the biggest state, so we’re going to do better than we did the last time.”

In 2016, Mr. Sanders captured 45.7 percent of Democratic voters in California’s primary, compared to Hillary Clinton’s 53.4 percent.

The Sanders campaign office in East Los Angeles is tucked between taquerias in a small strip mall. During the October Democratic debate, it was filled with raucous energy — people in plastic folding chairs whooped with each jab Mr. Sanders took at the candidates surrounding him onstage.

It had been just two weeks since Mr. Sanders had a heart attack, but whatever concern his supporters had seemed to quickly melt away. Far from seeing his age as a liability, many Latinos said in interviews they supported him precisely because they view him as an elder who deserves to be respected.

“I see him as the most honest candidate,” said Esteban Shugert, 42, who had come to the party from his nearby home, eager to meet other Sanders fans. “He’s not trying anything out for the first time. He’s been fighting for the same things in the past.”

Mr. Sanders at a town hall at Aratani Theatre in Los Angeles in July. “Latinos have been promised things and then the winds change. But he’s been saying the same things ever since he started,” one supporter said.
Mr. Sanders at a town hall at Aratani Theatre in Los Angeles in July. “Latinos have been promised things and then the winds change. But he’s been saying the same things ever since he started,” one supporter said.Credit…Rozette Rago for The New York Times

Campaign officials acknowledge that there is still something of a generational split, with supporters skewing younger. So organizers and volunteers are focused on outreach to older voters, many of whom primarily speak Spanish.

Orianna Garcia, a 28-year-old production assistant, said she started a “Boyle Heights for Bernie” group because Mr. Sanders is unknown among many of her neighbors in the historically and predominantly Mexican-American area, particularly those who mostly speak Spanish.

“In the older community especially, people will tell me they support Biden because they know who he is, but once I start talking about not taking corporate money and supporting ‘Medicare for all,’ they light up and are ready to flip,” said Ms. Garcia who is planning a “Tamales for Tío Bernie” event in the area.

Ms. Garcia said that despite holding steady jobs for the past decade, she has never received health insurance and instead relies on emergency rooms when she needs to see a doctor. “There is so much need for health care in our community,” she said. “It costs everyone so much money that it gets everyone’s attention.”

In interviews with Latino supporters in California and Iowa, many said health care was their top issue, pointing to parents who have gone bankrupt after surgery or have to travel to Mexico to see doctors. Even among members of unions that have fought to negotiate health care benefits, there is widespread enthusiasm for Mr. Sanders’s Medicare for all proposal.

Mr. Sanders has also taken some of the most liberal stances on immigration in the Democratic field. In an immigration policy plan released Thursday, he called for a moratorium on deportations and an end to Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids. He also promised to push Congress to enact a pathway to citizenship for all 11.1 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.

Mr. Sanders said he would expand executive orders to allow those immigrants to stay in the country until Congress changes existing laws. He has vowed to “fundamentally restructure” Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency that in 2002 he opposed creating. The plan also calls for ending family separations at the border and allowing asylum seekers into the country.

Campaign officials have emphasized that three staff members who are Latino recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, shaped Mr. Sanders’s immigration policy.

“We made it very clear that immigration reform is not enough any more. We need to put a stop to deportations right away,” said Belén Sisa, one of those staff members. “Ten years ago it would have been taboo for us to have influence over the policies that have impacted our lives.”

The campaign began its dedicated Latino outreach as soon as Mr. Sanders announced, Mr. Návar said, and held “Unidos con Bernie” events throughout the early voting states. In Iowa, the campaign has begun texting Latinos with a digital advertisement in Spanish about Mr. Sanders’s family immigration history. Organizers in the state believe that they can drastically increase the number of Latino caucus voters; in 2006, less than 3,000 of the 85,000 eligible Latinos voted in the caucus.

There are now more than 80 Latino staff members out of the roughly 400 working for the campaign, including Analilia Mejia, the national political director.

“We have a cultural competency in everything we do because of that,” said Chuck Rocha, a senior adviser for the campaign. “We were running paid ads targeting Latinos before we started reaching out to white people.”

In Des Moines late last month, Mr. Sanders received another round of loud applause as he touted his recent endorsement from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York and one of the most prominent Latinos in politics.

“It gives me no pleasure to tell you what I suspect most of you already know — that we have a president of the United States today who is an overt racist, who is a xenophobe,” Mr. Sanders began, before citing his own father’s experience as an immigrant from Poland, “fleeing anti-Semitism, fleeing terrible, terrible poverty.” He added that his father “came to this country and like millions and millions of people became the proudest American that you have ever seen.”

Inside the East Los Angeles campaign office, a sign declaring “Unidos con Bernie” is tacked up next to a drawing of Mr. Sanders with “mensch” written in capital letters below.

Carlos Marroquin, a postal worker and a supporter of Mr. Sanders, said,  “We need to show people that he is the one talking about the things we care most about: incarceration, homelessness, housing, inequality.” 
Carlos Marroquin, a postal worker and a supporter of Mr. Sanders, said, “We need to show people that he is the one talking about the things we care most about: incarceration, homelessness, housing, inequality.” Credit…Rozette Rago for The New York Times

For the last four years, Carlos Marroquin, 53, a postal worker and activist, has been helping to corral what he calls the “Bernie Brigade,” organizing Sanders supporters for all kinds of political causes. Now, he said, the group is seeing the benefits of never disbanding.

“We didn’t stop, just like he doesn’t stop,” Mr. Marroquin said. “We need to show people that he is the one talking about the things we care most about: incarceration, homelessness, housing, inequality. These are things we’ve all demanded for a long time.”

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