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Bernie Sanders Supporters Pack Paducah Convention Center

Lance Dennee
WKMS Radio

Bernie Sanders supporters began lining up for his rally in Paducah before sunrise Sunday to secure a seat close enough for a handshake from the presidential hopeful.  

Sanders needs 65 percent of the remaining delegates to receive a nomination before the convention. The Vermont Senator believes if he can manage to win the majority, super-delegates aside, he can not only maintain the spirit of the democratic process “one person one vote” but he can also beat Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Twenty-nine year old Alia Clement is a “die hard Bernie fan.”

“I got here at 4:00 this morning, because I want to meet Bernie, I want to meet him,” says Clement.

Clement along with almost 2000 other supporters filled the Julian Carroll Convention Center in Paducah. Within minutes of the rally Sanders addressed threats to the U.S. political system, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s support of “Citizens United” a Supreme Court case allowing unlimited election spending, which has according to Sanders further pushed the U.S. democracy into an oligarchy.

Sanders says if Kentuckians elect him to be their next president he will be the opposite of Governor Matt Bevin.

“Bevin wants to cut healthcare—I think it is the right for all Americans. Bevin wants to cut education and I want to expand it,” says Sanders.

Sanders touched on a number of issues, including opiate and heroin addiction, an affliction Kentucky has dealt with along with the rest of the U.S.

“I was in Kentucky a couple of years ago with my son and we stopped off at a school... I got to speak with some of the administrators and the teachers and the football coach says to me ‘ you know what, eleven kids on my football team are no longer living with their families because their parents are strung out on opiates.’ ...This is a national problem and the questions that we have to ask ourselves are; what is the responsibility of the pharmaceutical industry in producing these drugs? What are the responsibilities of these doctors who are providing far too many of these drugs? But maybe most importantly, why is it that so many people are becoming addicted?”

Sanders says the number of kids that he has spoken with all say “there is nothing for us to do.”

“We are not going to go forward until we realize these issues have to be treated as health issues, not criminal issues. That means a revolution in mental health treatment in America,” says Sanders.

Mental health and social justice are just a couple of the reasons Amy Iddings became a volunteer with the Paducah Sanders Campaign.

“I was feeling really alienated from the political process and then Bernie Sanders came on my radar, and the more I looked into him the more I realized that his entire history is social work values, supporting the dignity and worth of all people,” says Iddings.

Getting involved in politics was not something Iddings had imagined. But the message that Sanders is speaking is more than a candidacy to Iddings, it is a movement. Before she could rationalize what was happening, Iddings says she had become a local voice. In what Iddings describes as being a “surreal” opportunity, she found herself being asked to present Sanders at the rally on Sunday.

“It’s about building this movement that says that we do have to be awake and we do have to pay attention and we do have to say what we want, because if we don’t, other interests that are fueled by power and money will speak for us if we are not speaking for ourselves,” says Iddings.

Charley Quinton from La Center, Kentucky says this kind of turnout  means a number of things for the city.

“It says that Paducah is going to remain on the map. It’s going to be in its place as an important city, as a hub city as an industrial capital. As a place where people can live and grow families and the crops of their choice,” says Quinton.

Quinton believes this type of campaign goes beyond the candidate. He says what is happening is a movement towards a unified society.

The democratic primary is Tuesday the 17th.

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