Bernie Sanders asks supporters to deliver "the largest voter turnout in Kentucky history" for Tuesday's Democratic primary

05/14/2016 11:28 PM

BOWLING GREEN — Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders challenged his supporters at a rally Saturday to deliver “a great victory” in Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primary, saying that Kentucky’s closed primary will make turnout more important in his hopes of defeating the party’s front-runner in Hillary Clinton.

“We have got to have in Kentucky on Tuesday a very, very large voter turnout because what we have learned in this campaign is when working people and young people come out in large numbers, we win,” Sanders said at Bowling Green’s Historic Railpark and Train Museum.

“So this Tuesday, let us have the largest voter turnout in Kentucky history for a Democratic primary.”

Sanders, who took shots at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Gov. Matt Bevin from the stump, barely mentioned Clinton in his hourlong speech to a crowd of 2,450 supporters, a figure provided by his campaign.

Some of his shots at the likely nominee came in reference to a $300,000 contribution from a member of the Walton family, which owns Walmart, to one of her supportive super PACs as well as the fact that 450 superdelegates had already pledged to back her presidential campaign before any other candidates launched their campaigns of the Democratic nomination.

Clinton leads Sanders by 767 delegates and needs 143 more to secure the Democratic nomination. She leads the senator among superdelegates by 484.

“And that is the way the establishment works,” Sanders said. “In other words, you create a situation where it is impossible for the people to stand up and have a voice, so I say to those 450 delegates, think very hard about which candidate and which campaign is best likely to beat Donald Trump.”

Sanders is hoping to take that appeal to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July, and his supporters in Bowling Green are optimistic that he’ll win Kentucky on Tuesday.

“Bernie is the culmination of a period in my life from ’68 through ’72 when we thought we were going to create a revolution, and then it fizzled through the ‘70s, ‘80s and ’90s,” said 63-year-old Michael Zen, of Bowling Green. “And Bernie now represents that same ideal. Like him, I didn’t lose faith.”

Zen said he would support whomever wins the Democratic presidential nomination rather than Trump, the presumptive Republican candidate.

So, too, will Maggie Jo Hilliard, a 35-year-old from Bowling Green. But she said she expects Sanders to carry Kentucky and Oregon, which also votes on Tuesday, “by a pretty considerable margin.”

Sanders’ rejection of establishment politics, his consistency on issues and his views for a social democracy are primary factors in her decision to support him, said Hilliard.

“I think it’s a positive for the system of politics, the system of our democracy to stay in it until everyone has had a say,” she said. “It’s important for our system of government to allow the people in the remaining primaries to have a say in this election because it really does come down to the possibility that the superdelegates could change their mind.”

But some who plan to vote for Sanders in Tuesday’s primary say they might not vote in a Clinton-Trump general election, and one couple supporting Sanders who spoke with Pure Politics said they would back Trump over Clinton in the fall.

“I don’t trust Hillary Clinton,” said Bill Scott, 66, of Bowling Green. “… The Wall Street thing is a problem for me.”

“It’s time to break the dynasty,” said his wife, Susan.

Theo Marks, 34, of Bowling Green, said he would support Clinton if she wins the Democratic nomination because “Trump just makes absolutely no sense, in my personal opinion.”

“At least Hillary has some things in place that and has worked on some policies that do make sense,” Marks said. “I think Trump is not a politician. He’s more of a showman, so I will go with obviously the lesser of two evils and vote for Hillary.”

Patrick Deroy, 39, of Bowling Green, also said he would vote for Clinton if she faces Trump in the Nov. 8 election, although begrudgingly.

“Probably what’ll happen is I’ll go in and I guess I’ll probably cast my vote for Hillary and vomit when I do,” he said.

His friend, 34-year-old Rachel Test, of Bowling Green, said she will likely cast a write-in vote for Sanders or sit the election out entirely.

“I just feel like at this point, if our votes are not going to count for anything then it doesn’t matter whether you select one,” she said. “I think it’s important if you do that it’s for, you gotta know who you’re voting for and what they’re about.”

Clinton has taken some criticism within Kentucky for her remarks on the coal industry during a March town hall hosted by CNN, and that may have been a factor in her 15.6 percent loss to Sanders in West Virginia’s primary May 10.

Sanders also touched on fossil fuels in his remarks Saturday in Bowling Green, saying that scientists say, “almost in a unanimous voice,” that climate change is a manmade phenomenon and “is already causing devastating problems in our country and around the world.” The country should transition from energy sources like coal and oil to sustainable sources, he said.

“I am more than aware that in that transition there will be workers in the fossil fuel industry in coal and oil who will be hurt, and that is why in legislation that I have introduced, we’ve put $41 billion to make sure that those communities that are impacted by the energy transformation get the help they need, get the jobs they need, get the healthcare they need,” Sanders said. “Our job, and I say this as perhaps the strongest pro-worker member of the United States Senate, our job is to save the planet, not to hurt workers.”

Sanders will hold another rally in Paducah on Sunday while Clinton has planned stops in Louisville and Covington that day as well as in Lexington and Bowling Green on Monday.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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