Five months after Bernie Sanders drew big crowds around New Mexico while touting his own upstart presidential bid, the self-described democratic socialist was back in the state to campaign for his former Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
In a 30-minute speech Tuesday to a crowd of roughly 2,000 people on the University of New Mexico campus, Sanders touched on a range of issues that made him popular with the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, including campaign spending and climate change.
“If for no other reason that the future of this planet, which is a pretty big reason, you should be voting for Hillary Clinton,” Sanders said.
However, a vocal contingent of protesters also made its presence felt at Tuesday’s event. Some protesters held signs in support of Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, a former New Mexico governor, and one could be heard shouting, “Bernie is a sellout!”
Sanders did not respond directly to the hecklers, who were frequently drowned out by cheers from the crowd.
But some speakers who gave remarks before Sanders did engage with the protesters, with state labor leader Jon Hendry saying, “Vote for Gary Johnson, because you’re voting for Donald Trump.”
Clinton narrowly defeated Sanders in New Mexico’s June primary election, though Sanders carried Bernalillo County, the state’s most populous county. Sanders endorsed Clinton in July, after she had secured the Democratic Party nomination.
During his Tuesday speech, Sanders said Clinton would, if elected, address income inequality issues by pushing for a higher national minimum wage and reduced tuition costs for middle-income families sending their children to public universities.
He also repeatedly took aim at Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, who held a pair of campaign events Tuesday in Colorado.
“We will not elect a president who is trying to divide us up,” Sanders told the crowd. “Our strength is our diversity.”
Sanders, who is also a U.S. senator from Vermont, has inspired a wide following among younger voters, and Tuesday’s rally drew a large turnout of UNM students, some of whom said this year’s presidential election is generating unprecedented interest among students and faculty members alike.
“I feel like everyone is talking about the election, even the professors,” said Abigail Rosecrans, a UNM junior.
David Gallardo, a UNM senior, said he largely agreed with Sanders’ message, adding, “I think he should have been the nominee, but that’s just me.”
Meanwhile, at least some of the protesters at Tuesday’s rally were apparently still angry at Democratic Party of New Mexico officials for their handling of the state’s primary election, including the cancellation of a presidential straw poll – between Clinton and Sanders – at the party’s pre-primary convention in March.
The Republican Party of New Mexico cited the protests in a statement about today’s rally.
“Hillary Clinton’s message of doubling down on the status quo may excite DPNM party bosses, but the same cannot be said for the voters in New Mexico and our country,” state GOP spokesman Tucker Keene said.
Hillary Clinton has not held any public campaign events of her own in New Mexico during this year’s election cycle, but recent polls have shown her holding a lead in the state, which was won by President Barack Obama, a Democrat, in 2008 and 2012.