As he lags in the polls, Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Garcia brought in progressive powerhouse Sen. Bernie Sanders to fire up young voters at rallies in Tucson and Tempe on Tuesday.
Sanders blasted President Donald Trump at a rally on Arizona State University’s campus and reminded Arizona voters of a series of progressive victories they brought about in recent years as he stumped for Garcia, who opposes Gov. Doug Ducey.
The former presidential candidate who may run again in 2020, praised Arizona voters for ousting Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio from office in 2016, calling him a “racist of the worst kind.”
Sanders also touted passage of a ballot measure to boost Arizona’s minimum wage.
With his distinctive, East Coast accent Sanders even hearkened back to his last visit in Phoenix, during which a woman told him she waited eight hours in line to vote for him during the presidential preference election.
He then praised rally goers for ousting Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell after voters waited in line for hours and many simply did not vote because of the long lines during the presidential preference election.
“You stood up and you said that you will not allow people to suppress democracy and you got rid of that county recorder,” he said.
“That’s what democracy is all about.”
Sanders’ speech had echoes of a presidential stump speech, but he added reminders to young voters that their voices could be heard if they turned out to the polls on Election Day.
The politician with a nearly cult-like following insisted that the best way to send a message to Trump is if voters turn out in droves and elect progressive candidates like Garcia.
“In 2014, we had the lowest turnout in modern history,” Sanders said. “In 2018, we’ve got to have the highest.”
Sanders called Trump a pathological liar who duped voters in Arizona and across the country, he said while acknowledging Arizona went for Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
Many of those Trump voters didn’t know then what they know now, he said.
Trump said he would provide healthcare for everyone, but then led the charge to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Sanders said. He said he was going to take on the establishment, but then he appointed more billionaires to his administration than any other previous president.
“Trump told the people of Arizona one thing and ended up doing something very different,” he said.
Sanders never explicitly mentioned Ducey in his 30-minute remarks, but he excoriated wealthy politicians and a corrupt political system that allows them to ascend to power.
Garcia was not so subtle. He contrasted his background in the U.S. Army with Ducey’s background as CEO of Coldstone Creamery.
“I have served our country. Doug Ducey has served ice cream,” Garcia said. … “We’ve got a CEO governor right now. We need a working class governor right now.”
He talked about growing up in a working class household and focused much of his speech on education, one of his top issues throughout the campaign.
But Garcia also played to his audience by promising to stand by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students and pledged to make state colleges and universities nearly as free as possible, as is stipulated in the state constitution.
“Our universities should be as nearly free as possible,” Garcia said. “That’s not some crazy, progressive idea. That’s Bernie Sanders before Bernie was Bernie.”
Hundreds of students and progressives turned out to the campus rally. Garcia molded himself into a Sanders-type this election by shunning corporate PAC money, promising free college and calling for a single-payer health system.
The rallies at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona underscore Garcia’s path to victory in the governor’s race. Throughout the race, he has worked to motivate new voters and those who don’t typically vote, such as Hispanics and young voters.
But his strategy may be lacking. Polls show Garcia trailing Gov. Doug Ducey by double digits. Ducey and his supporters have overwhelmingly outspent Garcia, making it hard for the Democrat to keep his head above water in the general election.
Ducey had harsh words for Garcia and Sanders last week while the governor and other Republicans rallied with Trump in Mesa.
“Can you believe it? These guys are actually proud to stand with Bernie Sanders,” Ducey said. “Would you be proud to stand with Bernie Sanders?”
Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton by double digits in Arizona.