SANTA FE – Sen. Bernie Sanders made a fiery appeal Friday to Democratic voters in New Mexico to help boost his campaign’s momentum going into the final round of state primaries, acknowledging he will need to win “almost all” of the remaining contests to get the nomination.
Sanders kicked off a two-day campaign swing through heavily Hispanic New Mexico with a trio of public rallies that started Friday ahead of the state’s vote in the final round of primary elections.
He vowed to take his fight for the nomination to the Democrats’ national convention, and railed against superdelegates that backed Clinton before primary votes were cast.
“We need to go into the Democratic convention in late July with great momentum,” he told a cheering crowd of 2,500 people in a packed community college gymnasium in Santa Fe. “We need to win all or almost all of the states that are up on June 7.”
Sanders took the stage to chants in Spanish of, “Yes, you can.” Native American singers warmed up the crowd and supporters waved pro-Sanders signs overhead with the words, “A future to believe.” Doors were closed with 600 people still in line outside.
Sanders invoked New Mexico’s high rates of poverty and its last-place ranking among states for high school graduation rates as a call for political action, while condemning the corrosive influence of billionaires – including Donald Trump – on politics.
“New Mexico wants a government that represents all of us, not just the 1 percent,” Sanders said.
Jubilant supporters, from grade-schoolers to octogenarians, expressed admiration for the candidate. More than a few wore custom Bernie Sanders tie-dye shirts.
“Whether he wins or loses isn’t as important,” said Gary Oakley, 53, of Santa Fe, a professional artist. “It’s just to let him know that we’re behind him.”
At an evening rally in Albuquerque, Sanders got a rise with his support for a living wage and the need to reform campaign finance, along with what he called disastrous trade agreements that have hampered the nation’s economy. He touched on everything from clean water and fracking to the war on drugs and the need for better mental health services.
On Saturday visited the town of Vado, not far from where the borders of New Mexico, Texas and Mexico intersect.
Sanders and Hillary Clinton are chasing a share of New Mexico’s 43 delegate votes. Five out of nine state superdelegates have expressed their commitment to Clinton, with the remainder uncommitted.
Sanders is coming off a primary victory Tuesday in Oregon and a near tie in Kentucky, but he still has no clear path to victory in the delegate count.
The Vermont senator is the first presidential candidate to visit New Mexico. Donald Trump on Thursday announced plans to visit early next week, overlapping with a scheduled visit by Bill Clinton to campaign on behalf of his wife in the cities of Española and later Albuquerque.
The state is shaping up as a proving ground for appeal to Hispanic voters. More than 45 percent of New Mexico residents identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino – a higher percentage than non-Hispanic whites.