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New Mexicans ‘feel the Bern’

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Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders worked up a crowd of more than 7,000 people who came to see him Friday, sending them into a chanting frenzy over some of the sensitive cultural issues he talked about at the rally – racial and economic inequality, environmental regulation and the history of Native Americans.

Hundreds more Sanders supporters were closed out of the Albuquerque Convention Center on Friday night for Sanders’ speech, his second event of the day in New Mexico.

Lukman Seyal, 7, of Rio Rancho, wears his Bernie Sanders school project around his neck as he enters the Albuquerque Convention Center with his family to attend a rally for the Democratic Party presidential candidate on Friday

Lukman Seyal, 7, of Rio Rancho, wears his Bernie Sanders school project around his neck as he enters the Albuquerque Convention Center with his family to attend a rally for the Democratic Party presidential candidate on Friday. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Nearly 3,500 people gathered to hear Sanders speak in Santa Fe earlier Friday, with some there also being kept out of the crowded facility.

Early into Sanders’ Albuquerque rally, his microphone buzzed with reverb.

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“There’s too much electricity in here,” he said to the cheering crowd.

And electrified they were, rarely stopping their clapping, hooting or booing, depending on the topics, which spanned all of Sanders’ major platform issues in a speech that lasted a little over an hour.

A slightly weary Sanders told the Journal before the rally that his trip to the state had been a whirlwind and he hadn’t really had a chance to enjoy his visit as he races to claim the slim number of delegates left in the presidential primary race.

Sanders still has a chance, albeit a small one, at getting the nomination. Clinton has 96 percent of the delegates and superdelegates needed to clinch the nomination, according to The Associated Press.

It was the topic of delegates, specifically superdelegates, that Sanders chose as his first issue to tackle, and it elicited a thunderous boo from the crowd. Sanders explained how superdelegates, members of the Democratic Party chosen by party leaders who aren’t bound by the public’s vote in guiding their nominee selection, had chosen Hillary Clinton before Sanders and other Democrats had even entered the race.

“That’s kinda dumb,” he said in an interview before the rally.

“That is what the anointment process is about, and it is a bad idea,” he told the crowd. “It is undemocratic … and makes a dangerous situation for the party.”

That danger, he said, would be the selection of Clinton as the party’s nominee.

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Sanders, who has won 11 of 18 Democratic primaries since March 22, polled this week as having a better chance of beating presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Sanders vowed Friday to stay in the race “until the last ballot is cast.”

He told the Santa Fe crowd the same thing.

Bernie Sanders reminded the crowd at Santa Fe Community College on Friday about New Mexico’s high poverty rate and low high school graduation percentage

Bernie Sanders reminded the crowd at Santa Fe Community College on Friday about New Mexico’s high poverty rate and low high school graduation percentage. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

“We are going to fight for every last vote between now and June 14, and we are going to take our fight to the Democratic convention,” he said.

That is in Philadelphia July 25-28.

Sanders supporter Linh Duong, 34, of Albuquerque said that if Sanders isn’t selected as the party’s nominee in Philadelphia, she won’t be voting for Clinton or Trump.

“I’ll write in Bernie’s name,” she said at the rally with her daughter and her friend.

The three said they’d arrived at the Albuquerque Convention Center just after the doors opened at 4 p.m. to make sure they got a place to “hear him speak. Because when he speaks, it comes from the heart,” Duong said.

And she said she likes Sanders’ position on decriminalizing marijuana.

Sanders told the Albuquerque crowd it was time to “rethink the war on drugs,” emphasizing that he believes drug addiction is a health issue and not a criminal issue and that drug arrests and prosecutions unfairly target minorities.

From there, Sanders traversed a dozen more social issues that are part of his campaign, including income inequality, gender issues, paid leave for new parents, access to subsidized education and health care, environmental regulation and taxation on fossil fuel companies, fracking, police culture, the banking industry, a mandatory $15 minimum wage, immigration and the plight of economies on Native American reservations.

Sanders’ comments about Native Americans came as his speech was winding down around 8:30, and his comments drew the longest applause and group chant from the audience.

“Native Americans have a profound lesson that we cannot afford to ignore,” Sanders said. “That lesson … is as human beings we are part of nature.”

He said the country owes a great debt to Native Americans and that if he is elected president, he will address the struggles they face on their reservations.

“If you go to the reservations around this country … what you find is a people who live with horrifically high levels of poverty and unemployment … high suicide rates,” he said. “A people living in Third World conditions. … if elected president, we will change our relationship with our Native American” neighbors.

Sanders supporter Kelcie Spurgin of Albuquerque brought her baby daughter to the rally to hear just that message.

“He’s the first candidate we’ve had who is empowering all people to be a success,” she said, including children.

Sanders pointed out New Mexico’s high child poverty rate to both the Albuquerque and Santa Fe crowds.

“That should not happen in New Mexico. It must not happen in America. We’re going to change our national priorities,” he said to the crowd in Santa Fe.

A third New Mexico Sanders rally is scheduled for today at Vado Elementary School, south of Las Cruces.

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