Erin Allday Feb. 17, 2020 (SFChronicle.com)
Two weeks out from Super Tuesday, and with no state more powerfully positioned than California to name the Democratic nominee, Bernie Sanders told an enthusiastic crowd of thousands in Richmond on Monday that victory is riding on their shoulders.
“The candidate who wins here in California stands a pretty good chance to win the entire nation,” Sanders called out to cheers from his supporters. “So, today, I’m here to ask you to vote. To vote early. To bring your aunts and uncles and grandparents and friends and co-workers.”
Sanders is leading most of the polls in California and coming off good performances in the first two stops of the primary trail. But the March 3 elections in 14 states are make or break, with a huge number of the delegates needed to decide the Democratic nomination distributed that day. Sanders wedged the Richmond rally, at Craneway Pavilion on the bay, between stops in Carson City, Nev., on Sunday night and Tacoma, Wash., later Monday.
The line to get into the Richmond event stretched for nearly a mile one hour before the rally was set to begin at noon, and two hours before Sanders was expected to take the stage. The atmosphere inside and out was excited if not outright festive — supporters waved blue and white placards, pinned buttons to their shirts and occasionally broke into chants of “Bernie! Bernie!”
“It’s not that often we get a politician coming to Richmond. When we can show our support, we want to be here,” Richmond resident Ted Steen, 29, said as he waited with a friend in the back of the pavilion for the rally to begin.
“I’m feeling excited already,” said Joanna Pulido, also of Richmond. “It’s high energy. This is a good place to be right now.”
Outside in line, Oakland resident Kenneth Giles, 48, said he’s “never disliked” Sanders as a candidate, but this rally was his first time getting actively involved in the campaign. He said he is drawn to Sanders’ honesty — “I think he’s honest, as far as politicians go” — and his chances of beating President Trump in the November election.
“The current administration makes me feel like I need to do everything I can. It’s time for a change, and Bernie’s going to be the one to get us there,” Giles said. “This is history. I can say I’ve been in the same building as the president of the United States. I have total confidence he’ll get the job done.”
Sanders took the stage at about 1 p.m., after a brief introduction by, and warm hug from, actor and activist Danny Glover, a San Francisco native.
Sanders told the crowd his team has two goals: to defeat Trump and to lead a transformational movement to overhaul American institutions that he said favor the rich over the working class and poor.
“We understand that no president, not Bernie Sanders or anybody else, can do it alone. We need a mass political movement,” Sanders said. “And what the establishment is trembling about, what they’re fearful of, is that working people are standing.
“The one percent is enormously powerful,” Sanders said of the wealthiest individuals in the country. “But at the end of the day, the one percent is just 1%. If we stand together for an agenda that works for all, nothing will stop us. We’ll defeat Trump, and we’ll transform the country.”
Sanders’ speech was met with screams of support and applause as he raised familiar, crowd-pleasing notes. Though he broke no new ground with his speech, the audience was loud in its support for affordable health care, free public higher education and the proposed Green New Deal, which calls for aggressive new policies to address climate change and economic inequality.
“It was a good speech, but it seemed a little familiar, like he’s given it a few times,” Sausalito resident Kahlil Gray, 29, said as he made his way through a crowd of supporters eager for a glimpse of Sanders after his speech. “I guess that’s the way things go. And this has been a great experience, right up there with meeting Barack Obama.”
Many people at the event said they were encouraged to see broad diversity among the supporters in attendance. There were gray-haired men and women in well-worn tie-dyed shirts and scarves and families with young children who brought grapes and reusable water bottles for the hours they’d be waiting. Outside the pavilion, a group of families had set up a table for selling Girl Scout cookies.
“We went to two rallies in 2016, but they were nothing like this,” said Berkeley resident Jennifer Altman, 47, who attended the Richmond event with her husband and two daughters. “To see how this movement has grown and to see the diversity — I think now there is an undeniable shift in support. This is not a white boys club here. There is a preponderance of women and people of color. Bernie Sanders is speaking for us.”
Erin Allday is a health reporter who writes about infectious diseases, stem cells, neuroscience and consumer health topics like fitness and nutrition. She’s been on the health beat since 2006 (minus a nine-month stint covering Mayor Gavin Newsom). Before joining The Chronicle, Erin worked at newspapers all over the Bay Area and covered a little of everything, including business and technology, city government, and education. She was part of a reporting team that won a Polk Award for regional reporting in 2005, for a series of stories on outsourcing jobs from Santa Rosa to Penang, Malaysia. Erin started her journalism career at the Daily Californian student newspaper and many years later still calls Berkeley her home.