Bernie Sanders draws large, young crowd at Kansas City rally
KANSAS CITY - Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders held a rally in Kansas City Wednesday afternoon in advance of the Missouri primary on March 15 and the Kansas caucuses on March 1. (See KOMU 8 News' exclusive interview below.)
The rally at the Kansas City Convention Center brought in a full crowd. The entire room was filled with supporters and Sanders apologized for coming on stage late. He said he waited because there were still a lot of people who hadn't made it inside yet.
This is the Vermont senator's second time visiting Kansas City since being a presidential hopeful. He came in July for the La Raza annual conference. A lot has changed for the candidate since then.
At the La Raza event, most people who talked to KOMU 8 News said they were there for Hillary Clinton. Now, Sanders and Clinton are nearly tied in some polls.
"We started this campaign nine months ago polling at three and a half percent. We had three national polls this week putting us in the lead," Sanders told the crowd.
KOMU 8 News was able to get an exclusive interview with Sanders before he took the stage. Since Super Tuesday is before both the Kansas caucuses and the Missouri primary, the question KOMU 8 News asked was, "Why are you rallying in Kansas City so close to Super Tuesday, when people in those states vote first?" His response was that he wanted to get here before the other candidates.
At the rally, Sanders said he is gaining momentum because people are tired of establishment politics.
"They've heard it over and over again," he said.
One of his main topics was what he referred to as a "broken criminal justice system." He said people in America are punished harsher and more frequently for drug use than for white collar crime. He also said drug use should be viewed as a medical condition, not criminal action.
Sanders also addressed social security. He said his campaign is listening to senior citizens who tell him "Bernie, I can't make it on $11,000 or $12,000 a year."
He also talked about a variety of minority groups.
"Let us not forget that 100 years ago today, women did not have the right to vote," Sanders said.
Gay rights and marijuana legalization were also topics.
"If someone said gay marriage would be legal in all 50 states in 2015, they would have said 'what are you smoking?', which raises another whole issue," he said.
Sanders said he would raise the minimum wage to $15 dollars and have gender wage equality.
Sanders acknowledged that some people have been calling his ideas radical.
"These are not radical ideas. These are ideas the American people want," he said.
Sanders also said his ideas of family values are different than that of his Republican peers. He said he will pass three months of paid family leave when if he wins the election.
Another major talking point was higher eduction. He asked the crowd who has student debt and many people in the audience responded.
He said, "Today a college degree is the equivalent of what a high school degree was ten years ago."
Jackson County Republican Committee Chairman Mark Jones said he is not worried about Sanders' appearance because he thinks "people have already made up their mind, especially about whether they are a Republican or Democrat."
The rally wrapped up a little after 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.