MONTPELIER — Sen. Bernie Sanders brought his political revolution home to Vermont Friday night, rallying Vermont Democrats in support of the party’s statewide candidates and boosting the campaign of gubernatorial nominee Sue Minter who is locked in a tie race.
Sanders, whose presidential campaign soared high enough to provide Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton with a serious challenge in the primary, played the roll of emcee, introducing each statewide candidate at the podium. He also shared an abridged version of the stump speech he bellowed out across the country during his presidential campaign.
“Nationally, democracy is, in fact, being threatened by Citizen’s United and by billionaires all over this country who intend to do everything they can to buy elections. In Vermont, we are saying you are not going to buy this election. Democracy will prevail,” Sanders said to an adoring crowd that provided him with a standing ovation as he entered Alumni Hall at the College of Fine Arts.
Sanders urged supporters to “think big, not small,” and work together “in a democratic way to transform this country.”
“There is no rational economic reason why so few have so much and yet working people in Montpelier or Barre cannot find high-quality child care, young people cannot afford to the college of their dreams,” Sanders said. “Our job is to bring that day closer where health care is a right of all people; where public colleges and universities are tuition free; where we create nationally millions of good-paying jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure; and where we lead the world, and this state can lead this country, in transforming our energy system and combatting climate change.”
Sanders endorsed Minter and the entire slate of Democratic statewide candidates in an email announcement on Oct. 13. Friday’s rally was the first of five scheduled events through Sunday featuring Sanders and Democratic candidates.
Friday, Sanders said Minter is the candidate for governor who will help Sanders achieve his dream of having Vermont lead the nation in a new direction.
“What we know is that what happens today in one state, the good ideas that are developed in one state, whether it is higher education, the environment or health care, spreads like wildfire all over this country,” Sanders said. “We can be the model for America. But to create that vision, to become that model, we need high-quality leadership, and let me introduce to you the next governor of the state who will give us that leadership, Sue Minter.”
Minter thanked Sanders “for making social and economic justice the center of our political agenda,” and promised to carry his vision forward.
“As governor, I am going to work hard to carry on Bernie’s fight to bring livable wage jobs and economic opportunity and hope for Vermont’s struggling middle-class,” she said. “This is a very important election. Vermonters have a lot at stake and right now we all know and we are all here because we know that too many Vermont children are in poverty, too many of our families are in shelters, too many of our students in debt, many of our communities reeling from opiate addiction.”
She also declared that climate change is “not just real, it is here and it is now,” urging the crowd to help “change the story.”
Minter sought to contrast herself and Sanders’ vision with her Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.
“We cannot afford a governor who wants to hit the pause on progress. We need a governor who is ready to create an economy that is for all Vermonters. Well, I’m in — all in. Are you in?” she said.
Minter said she will pursue paid family leave while noting that Scott opposes it and opposed paid sick leave. She also knocked him for an economic development strategy that “is about giving tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations.”
David Zuckerman, the Democratic and Progressive nominee for lieutenant governor, Secretary of State Jim Condos, Treasurer Beth Pearce, Auditor Doug Hoffer and T. J. Donovan, the Democratic Party’s nominee for attorney general, also spoke, rallying supporters for themselves as well as Minter.
Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch offered their praise to Sanders and urged the crowd to support Minter and the entire slate.
Sanders has spent much of his time since Clinton’s nomination stumping for her around the country. His involvement in the campaigns in Vermont comes as a VPR Poll shows Minter locked in a dead heat with Scott. According to the poll, the two are in a statistical tie — 39 percent for Scott and 38 percent for Minter.
With 24 percent of independent voters still undecided, Sanders could help tip the scale in Minter’s favor. To that end, Sanders will travel to Bennington, Rutland, St. Albans, Burlington and Addison County to stump for Minter and the Democratic ticket.