Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders drew thousands of cheering supporters to Seattle’s Safeco Field Friday. It was Sanders’ fifth rally in Washington in the past week as he presses for a win over Hillary Clinton in Saturday’s Democratic caucuses.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders drew thousands of supporters to Seattle’s Safeco Field on Friday, making a final push for a decisive win over Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in Saturday’s Democratic caucuses.
Taking the microphone shortly before 8 p.m., Sanders joked he’d dreamed as a boy of being at home plate at a major-league ballpark. “But I didn’t know I would be giving a speech. I thought I would have a bat in my hand,” he said.
To cheers from an estimated 15,000 on hand, Sanders predicted a big turnout would give him a victory in the caucuses and send a message “loud and clear, the billionaire class cannot have it all.”
Citing recent favorable polls, Sanders said a win in Washington could propel him to later victories in Oregon and California and eventually the nomination.
“So don’t let anybody tell you Hillary Clinton is the strongest candidate to take on the Republicans. It is just not true,” he said.
Unlike his most-recent Seattle rally at KeyArena, Sanders directly criticized Clinton, taking her to task for accepting Wall Street money via campaign contributions and in paid speeches. He said his campaign has remained different — taking millions of individual, small donations.
“We don’t represent Wall Street, corporate America, or the billionaire class,” he said.
Sanders also had harsh words for Republican front-runner Donald Trump. He said Americans would not elect a president who has insulted groups including women, Latinos, African Americans and Muslims, and “who is a candidate running like he was in a cafeteria food fight in the eighth grade.”
Laying out a long, progressive domestic-policy platform, Sanders vowed to push for public financing of campaigns, expansion of Social Security, a $15 federal minimum wage, free college tuition, guaranteed health care and an end to the war on drugs.
But he largely avoided foreign policy, making no mention of international terrorism in a week when an attack in Brussels left dozens dead, including two Americans.
It was Sanders’ fifth rally in Washington in the past week — and it took place at his largest venue yet. Safeco Field’s capacity for Mariners games is 47,500. By 7:45 p.m., as the crowd continued to wait for Sanders to appear, it had filled most of the stadium’s lower bowl, from first base to the left field foul pole, but upper decks remained empty.
Seattle’s socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant warmed up the crowd, calling for a new party free of corporate influence. Speaking of her own campaign centered on passage of Seattle’s $15 minimum wage, Sawant led the crowd in chants of “when we fight, we win!”
As they have at previous Sanders events, crowds lined up early for a chance to hear him speak. By 4 p.m., the line from Safeco Field stretched across the street past CenturyLink Field, snaked through its north parking lot, then doglegged around a building to Occidental Avenue.
Near its end, three teenagers from Mill Creek held signs reading “Gays for Bernie,” “Feel the Bern,” and “Latinxs Por Bernie.” Miguel Carroll, 17, said that he will have turned 18 by the presidential election. “So we are caucusing tomorrow,” Carroll said.
He and friends, Shione Borgal, 18, and Molica Perry, 17, said they support Sanders because he appeals to a diverse group of people, including immigrants, gays and low-income families.
“I absolutely love his consistency,” Carroll said. “You can’t see that in Hillary.”
Trailing Clinton in the national delegate count, Sanders’ campaign hopes to make up ground during Saturday’s caucuses in Washington, Alaska and Hawaii. Washington is the biggest prize of the Easter weekend, with 101 delegates up for grabs based on the precinct caucus results.
The Clinton campaign has conceded Sanders is likely to capture a majority of Washington’s delegates, but argues it won’t be enough to alter the course of the race. The former secretary of state also campaigned in the region this week, with comparatively small public events at an Everett union hall and Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School.
Sanders has spent much of the past couple days on a Northwest campaign swing. He rallied several thousand in Yakima on Thursday. Earlier Friday, he drew an estimated 11,500 to Portland’s Moda Center, according to The Oregonian.
The enthusiasm for the Sanders vs. Clinton race has party officials predicting Saturday’s caucuses could approach 2008’s record participation of 250,000. An estimated 35,000 sent in absentee ballots — an unprecedented surge in those early votes, which were allowed for voters who attested they could not attend caucuses due to illness, disability, religious observance, military service or work conflict.
Clinton has the endorsement of most of the state’s top elected Democrats, including Gov. Jay Inslee, U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. Her supporters have argued she has the required experience to lead and the best shot at winning in November.
Those big-name endorsements have not convinced Sanders’ supporters, who point to some polls showing he’d be the better matchup against Republicans like Trump.
Standing outside the south entry to the ballpark before the rally, Kathleen Kent said she’d been to all three previous Sanders appearances in Seattle, including a Westlake Park speech in August that was disrupted by Black Lives Matter protesters.
Sanders’ presence in the Democratic race has pulled Clinton to the left, Kent added. “She is sounding more and more like Bernie. But she is not Bernie. I don’t trust her.”