By JIM LEVULIS • FEB 23, 2016
Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders’ rally in Amherst Monday drew a range of supporters from college students to senior citizens including some Berkshire political leaders.
Massachusetts State Representative Paul Mark of the Second Berkshire District helped introduce Sanders at the Mullins Center.
“I was the first elected official in Massachusetts to publicly endorse Bernie,” Mark said. “And that was one of the easiest decision I ever made in my life.”
The Democrat, who pointed out he is a UMass Amherst grad, says Sanders is steadfast in talking about debt-free college and taking Wall St. money out of politics.
“Who has overcome incredible odds as an underdog since his very first campaign,” Mark said. “And is the first candidate for president I’ve ever seen in my life who is talking about the issues I’ve been waiting for someone to talk about my entire life.”
Also attending Monday’s speech was North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright. Currently in his fourth term, Alcombright says “sincerity” is fueling Sanders’ success.
“Quite honestly, I think like many other Democrats I might’ve been somewhat of a Hillary rollover four, five months ago and I really started to hear the message,” Alcombright said. “I really started to pay attention, listen and do some homework. A lot of what he [Sanders] says just appeals to the sincerity of the man and sincerity of some of the things he’d like to see done. He appeals to me just in a different way.”
Much like during his own run for reelection last year, Alcombright says Sanders is doing the important job of reaching out to young people.
“He gives our young people a lot of hope,” Alcombright said. “He’s connecting them back to a political system that I think they’ve been vacant from for a long, long time.”
One of those young people is Jim Broden, a senior at UMass Amherst, who is from Lunenburg, Massachusetts. An unenrolled voter who isn’t fully committing to Sanders, Broden says students and recent college graduates are swamped by loans.
“They just kind of feel overwhelmed,” Broden said. “They don’t really feel like anybody is there to help them. I don’t trust Hillary Clinton. I don’t trust any big business and I feel like that’s what Bernie is trying to get to. That’s the problem he’s going for. He’s trying to get that trust back. He seems like a real genuine guy. So just going off of that, I would vote for him.”
Meanwhile outside the Mullins Center Amy Bookbinder of Northampton was selling homemade earrings with Sanders’ campaign logo to those in the twisting line streaming in.
“I’ve been donating and donating and starting to run out of money,” Bookbinder said. “I figured this is a way I can make a contribution and I’m happy to do it.”
Bookbinder says she sold her first earrings in support of who she calls “the man of our time” on primary day in New Hampshire earlier this month. Sanders took that contest over Clinton 60 to 38 percent. In Massachusetts, polls have tightened up between the two candidates with Sanders even pulling ahead after surveys in the fall showed Clinton with a big lead among likely voters. The Clinton campaign, which has the support of many of Massachusetts’ elected officials, has not ruled out a visit by the former Secretary of State.
Alcombright says Sanders will win the primary on Super Tuesday next week.
“He seems to be just taking these states by storm,” Alcombright said. “I really do think with the electorate here he’s going to do well.”