WASHINGTON - Democratic Party candidate Bernie Sanders drew another overflow crowd Sunday night in his campaign for the U.S. presidency, as he brings his anti-billionaire message and calls for addressing income inequality in America.
Sanders is the rumpled independent senator from Vermont who has so far emerged as the leading opponent of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the quest for the Democratic nomination. Without her financial resources, he has been on a tour of the northwestern U.S. to drum up support.
His campaign, while not directly aimed at billionaire Republican Party candidate Donald Trump, stands in stark contrast to Trump's personal resources and assertion during Thursday's debate that he (Trump) could not be bought by campaign donors because he can finance his own campaign.
“I am trying another way,” Sanders said Sunday morning on CBS’ Face the Nation. “We have gotten well over 300,000 people who've made individual contributions. You know what the average contribution is? Thirty-one bucks. We're running a people-oriented campaign.”
Candidate in demand
On Sunday night, he spoke at a rally in Portland, Oregon, attended by more than 19,000 people. Organizers had originally booked a 12,000-seat venue, but scrambled to switch to the home of the National Basketball Association's Portland Trailblazers because of the demand.
A day earlier in Seattle, Sanders attracted 12,000 supporters to a University of Washington sports arena, while 3,000 more gathered outside to hear his populist platform: increased minimum wage, universal health care, mandated family leave.
“Seattle, 15,000 of you came out tonight and stood up to say loudly and clearly, ‘This country belongs to all of us, not just the billionaire class.’” Sander wrote Sunday on his Facebook page.
Sanders has always been considered a long shot against Clinton. A national poll by Monmouth University released August 5 put Clinton up by 36 percentage points.
But Sanders has filled rally venues recently in several major cities, including Minneapolis, New Orleans and Phoenix. He goes next to Los Angeles for a rally Monday.
The rally that fizzled
Sanders’ Seattle rally followed a gathering earlier Saturday that was interrupted by three activists from Black Lives Matter, a grassroots movement that has sprung up in the wake of widely publicized killings of black people by American police officers.
The trio was determined to call attention to Sunday’s anniversary of the shooting of an unarmed black man - Michael Brown - by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
Commandeering the microphone, they called for some moments of silence and for the opportunity to address the crowd. Sanders never got the microphone back, and he left without speaking.
“White progressive Seattle and Bernie Sanders cannot call themselves liberals while they participate in the racist system that claims Black lives. Bernie Sanders will not continue to call himself a man of the people, while ignoring the plight of Black people,” Black Lives Matter Seattle posted on Facebook.
“On criminal justice reform and the need to fight racism, there is no candidate for president who will fight harder than me,” Sanders told his Saturday night rally.