Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont spoke to thousands of enthusiastic supporters in downtown Raleigh, as part of an effort Friday to garner support in North Carolina and other states that hold primary elections Tuesday.
Sanders spoke before a cheering crowd that occasionally interrupted him with applause and filled the 2,300-capacity Memorial Auditorium on East South Street. He also addressed an overflow crowd of at least 1,000 who couldn’t enter the venue.
Sanders nodded to the military population in North Carolina, which is home to two of the country’s largest military bases. But he largely touched on the central topics he’s been touching on since he last visited the state in September: narrowing the gap between the rich and poor, regulating Wall Street, and overturning the Supreme Court ruling that allows Super PACs to spend unlimited money on political campaigns.
“This state, we all know, has an incredible history of so many of their young men and women in the military,” Sanders said. “We have so many veterans. Let us honor our veterans. Defend democracy. Come out and vote on Tuesday.”
The auditorium crowd, which included many young voters, responded vociferously when Sanders repeated his plans to offer free tuition at public colleges and universities.
Jessica Gilkey of Holly Springs, a student at Wake Tech Community College, said she voted early for Sanders because she identifies with him as an “idealist and realist.”
“He actually listens to people who are talking to him,” she said. “The whole black lives matter thing, for example. He actually stops and is like, ‘I’m going to listen to these people who are trying to say their struggles.' As opposed to just knocking them down and being like, "Okay, let's move on to a different subject." You know?”
Sanders is the fourth presidential hopeful to visit North Carolina ahead of the state’s primary. Republican front-runner Donald Trump spoke in Concord on Monday and Fayetteville on Wednesday, while Ted Cruz visited Raleigh on Tuesday. Clinton stopped by Raleigh on Thursday.