Less than a week ahead of Virginia’s primary, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders energized a near-capacity crowd at the Arthur Ashe Jr. Athletic Center on Thursday.
“In case you didn’t notice it, there are a lot of people in this room,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders to a crowd of thousands at the Arthur Ashe Jr. Athletic Center.
The city of Richmond welcomed presidential candidate, self-described democratic socialist, and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders on Thursday, less than a week before the Virginia primary. The event, which was originally planned for the 1500-capacity National, was moved earlier in the week to the Arthur Ashe Jr. Athletic Center, in order to accomodate the expected crowds. According to the Washington Post, the Richmond fire marshall estimated 4,700 people in attendance.
“Don’t complain about your student debt, don’t complain about climate change, don’t complain about racism or sexism or homophobia. Your complaints don’t mean anything,” said Sanders to the crowd. “What means something is standing up and fighting.”
Charlottesville City Council member Michael Payne, Virginia Director of CASA in Action Luis Aguilar, and the first Latina elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D-Woodbridge), took the stage before Sanders to excite the crowd about the progressive campaign.
“We believed in Bernie four years ago; he had a consistent message of progress, he had a base here in Virginia that believed in his message and voted for him, despite the establishment being against us,” said Guzman. “He has won Iowa, he has won New Hampshire, he has won Nevada, and we are getting ready to deliver Virginia to Bernie Sanders.”
Indie rock singer Lucy Dacus, who grew up in Richmond and is a member of the popular band Boygenius, performed a solo set before No BS! Brass Band also performed songs including “You Need To Vote.”
The Independent Vermont Senator addressed several of his key campaign issues during the rally, including ending voter suppression, equal pay for women, providing universal child care, raising teacher’s salaries, implementing universal health care, making public colleges tuition-free, and legalizing marijuana.
“There are some things a president can do through executive order, there are other things that need legislation. Turns out that one of the things you can do with executive order is legalize marijuana in every state,” said Sanders, to which the crowd reacted enthusiastically with “Bernie” chants.
“I’ve been supporting Bernie since 2016 because he’s the only progressive Democrat that’s actually talking about the problems we have as a country, such as income inequality, or the fact that our political parties aren’t working for working class people,” said Blair Wilner, a current Ph.D student at the University of Virginia.
Virginia will be one of 14 states who will hold their presidential primaries on March 3, known as Super Tuesday, when 33.8 percent of delegates are awarded to the candidates for the nominating convention. The South Carolina primary, which awards 63 delegates, will take place on Saturday, February 29.
According to Five Thirty Eight, a poll analysis website founded by Nate Silver, Sanders leads in Virginia with a 24.8 percent polling average, while Joe Biden is closely behind at 19.8 percent.
“We won the Nevada caucus, and that is getting the establishment very nervous,” said Sanders. “They are staying up days and nights trying to figure out how they can stop us, and when they see a turnout like this, they get even more nervous.”
The Vermont senator remains the Democratic front runner after three primaries and caucuses have been held. With 45 pledged delegates, Sanders holds a lead over other contenders Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Mike Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, Tulsi Gabbard, and Amy Klobuchar.
Donald Trump is running for reelection in 2020 against whoever the Democratic nominee will be. As of Feb. 26, Realclearpolitics.com has Senator Sanders with a 4.7 point national lead over President Trump, according to an average of numerous polls conducted. The general election will take place Tuesday, November 3.
“It gives me no pleasure to tell you this,” Sanders told the audience. “The sad truth is that we have a president today who is a racist, who is a sexist, who is a homophobe, who is a xenophobe, who is a religious bigot. And no matter what your political views may be, you understand that is not somebody who deserves reelection.”
Virginia’s primary election will take place on Tuesday, November 3. Virginia has open primaries, so you do not have to be registered as a member of a party to vote in its primary. You can find your polling station at elections.virginia.gov/citizen-portal/
Top Photo: Bernie takes the stage. Photo by Branden Wilson