San­ders pro­mot­ing new blood in Democrats but im­pact un­clear

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - NATION & WORLD - By Thomas Beau­mont Associated Press

OMAHA, Ne­braska — Bernie San­ders, who at­tracted mil­lions of col­legeage and young adults to his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign last year, is fol­low­ing through on a prom­ise he made when he left the race: to pro­mote younger lead­ers for the Demo­cratic Party.

It­may not seem the­most likely role for the slightly stooped, white-haired, 75year-old Ver­mont se­na­tor. But San­ders was ral­ly­ing sup­port Thurs­day for Omaha’s Demo­cratic may­oral can­di­date Heath Mello, who’s half his age.

While the Demo­cratic Party searches for a path back to power around the coun­try, San­ders is us­ing his pop­u­lar­ity to draw thou­sands at events to pro­mote next-gen­er­a­tion Democrats, though his ef­fec­tive­ness so far is un­clear. He’s on an eight-state cir­cuit of ral­lies with Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee lead­ers, vis­it­ing states Trump car­ried in the Novem­ber elec­tion.

“We need to trans­form the Demo­cratic Party,” San­ders said in Louisville’s packed Palace The­ater while head­lin­ing a Demo­cratic Party rally in Ken­tucky on Tues­day. “We need to open the doors of the Demo­cratic Party to work­ing peo­ple and to young peo­ple.”

Most of the 17 can­di­dates San­ders’ po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee has en­dorsed this year, in­clud­ing Mello, are in their 30s and 40s and gen­er­ally re­flect San­ders’ call for newer faces in a va­ri­ety of po­lit­i­cal po­si­tions.

Someare di­rect prod­ucts of the San­ders cam­paign, such as Khalid Ka­mau, who was elected to the South Ful­ton, Ga., City Coun­cil on Tues­day. The 40-year-old At­lanta-area ac­tivist in the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment vol­un­teered for San­ders’ cam- paign last year.

Others re­flect San­ders’ chal­lenge to the party es­tab­lish­ment, such as Tom Pier­rello of Vir­ginia. The 43-year-old former U.S. House­mem­berand ad­viser to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama is seek­ing the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion for gov­er­nor against Vir­ginia Lt. Gov. RalphNortham.

But San­ders is us­ing his pop­u­lar­ity with younger Democrats chiefly to in­spire, rather than di­rectly re­cruit, the younger faces he says the party needs.

It’s a tricky dance for San­ders, an in­de­pen­dent who doesn’t call him­self a Demo­crat — rather, a demo­cratic so­cial­ist — but sought the 2016 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion and aligns with the Democrats in the Se­nate.

Still, San­ders’ call for tax-sup­ported free col­lege tu­ition and his in­dict­ment of the po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence of the wealthy drew mil­lions of younger vot­ers dur­ing last year’s cam­paign.

In the pri­maries and cau­cuses he cap­tured 70 per­cent of the 30-andy­ounger vote, and those 2 mil­lion votes far ex­ceeded the com­bined to­tals in that age group for Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton and Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump. Among Demo­cratic pri­mary vot­ers alone, San­ders won a solid ma­jor­ity of sup­port fromvot­ers 45 and younger.

“Just see­ing him inspires peo­ple,” said Shannon Jack­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of San­ders’ PAC. “Where he draws such num­bers of peo­ple, they are in­spired by his mes­sage.”

On Tues­day, San­ders brought many of the roughly 2,800 in Louisville to their feet by repris­ing key lines from his 2016 cam­paign, in­clud­ing: “Our job is to take on the mon­eyed in­ter­ests. Andthe only way Iknowas to­howwedo that is by bring­ing mil­lions of peo­ple into the po­lit­i­cal process, with a new­born un­der­stand­ing that we have got to get in­volved.”

It takes more than be­ing a younger Demo­crat for a can­di­date to gain San­ders’ sup­port. His po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee de­cided against en­dors­ing 30-yearold Ge­or­gia Demo­crat Jon Os­soff, a former con­gres­sional staffer who qual­i­fied Tues­day for a June 20 runoff House elec­tion af­ter rais­ing more than $8 mil­lion in mostly out-of-state con­tri­bu­tions.

San­ders did en­dorse and cam­paign for 46-year-old Demo­crat James Thomp­son, a civil rights lawyer, ahead of his closer-thanex­pected, los­ing ef­fort in a spe­cial U.S. House elec­tion in Kansas last week. Thomp­son­raised a frac­tion of Os­soff’s haul, and in smaller con­tri­bu­tions, a hall­mark of San­ders’ own cam­paign.

RODGER MALLISON/FORTWORTH STAR-TELE­GRAM

Sen. Bernie San­ders speaks in Grand Prairie, Texas, dur­ing a tour of eight states Don­ald Trump won in Novem­ber.

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