Sanders urges Portland voters to support Clinton, reject Trump

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PORTLAND — The biggest difference in U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’s second campaign rally in Portland this year was who he supported.

The former presidential candidate rallied voters Tuesday for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was Sanders’ opponent the last time the Vermont Democrat campaigned here in March.

“I’ve got four kids and seven grandchildren, and I will not rest until I do everything I can to make sure that Donald Trump is not the next president,” Sanders said at the outset of his 48-minute speech in front of an estimated crowd of 1,150 people at the Deering High School gym.

When last in town before he won the state’s Democratic caucus, Sanders implored voters to turn out in record numbers to support him. On Tuesday he told voters who have not already cast their ballots that Clinton is the best choice to push a progressive agenda.

“It is our job to tell them the nation belongs to all of us,” he said. “Our job is to create an economy that works for all of us, not just wealthy campaign contributors.”

Sanders again called for a nationwide $15-per-hour minimum wage, publicly funded elections, health-care access for all and eliminating profiteering by pharmaceutical companies.

“Our job is to tell the drug companies, ‘stop ripping off the American public,’” he said.

In March, Sanders was locked in a protracted and sometimes acrimonious fight with Clinton for the Democratic nomination. On Tuesday, his targets were Republican candidate Trump, the erosion of the middle class, and the increasing impoverishment of the lower classes.

He also noted he and Clinton have reached a compromise on funding college education, by agreeing to support free tuition at public colleges and universities for households making less than $125,000 annually.

Sanders said he will visit 12 states before the Nov. 8 election to support Clinton and stop Trump.

“We have come too far as a nation, we have overcome so much in the way of discrimination and racism and sexism. We are not going back,” he said.

Sanders maintained his personal appeal, but Clinton supporters Peter and Tiffany Koster of Old Orchard Beach said they wanted to see him because they had already attended New Hampshire rallies where Clinton and Trump spoke.

“This is history,” Peter Koster said.

The couple has supported Clinton’s candidacy from the outset, but Tiffany Koster is a Vermont native.

“I grew up with Bernie,” she said.

Mike Connelly of Brunswick was a Sanders delegate to the state Democratic National Convention. He said his support for the senator did not dim after Clinton won the party’s nomination.

“He is a very solid guy, and I am gratified at the extent of his support for her,” Connelly said of Sanders, adding he used to cover Sanders when he was a reporter and Sanders was mayor of Burlington, Vermont.

Connelly said he has no worries about a renewed FBI investigation into emails possibly linked to the private server used by Clinton when she was secretary of state.

“I actually dove into it to see if anything is there. I’m not really sure if this is the greatest scandal since Watergate,” he said in response to a Trump claim.

Peter Koster agreed with Connelly.

“I think she seems very confident, nothing in the emails seems to be that terrible,” he said.

As Connelly spoke, his granddaughter, Juniper Connelly, 2, danced on the gym floor. Her mother said her joy was tempered, though.

“She is a little scared of Donald Trump, maybe because of some of the things I say about him,” Emily Connelly said.

Some too young to vote also showed their support in a crowd that lined the wooden bleachers and filled the basketball court in front of the stage.

Wiscasset High School senior Grant Hefler wore an oversized Sanders mask and said being at the rally was important because it kept him aware of current events.

Waynflete School student Sebastian Shames said he supported Sanders during the primaries.

“I sensed he cared about people, and I like his policies,” he said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, urges voters to support his former rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, for president in a campaign rally at Deering High School in Portland on Tuesday, Nov. 1.

Grant Hefler of Wiscasset made sure U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders seemed larger than life Tuesday, Nov. 1, at a rally at Deering High School in Portland.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.