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Bernie Sanders Tackles Big Banks, Race In North Texas

Laura Buckman
The Texas Tribune
Bernie Sanders, 2016 Democratic candidate for president, speaks at a rally in Dallas on Sunday, July 19.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders made a campaign stop in Dallas on Sunday. That followed his appearance at an event in Arizona, where he was interrupted and heckled at the Netroots Nation conference.

Though Texas has long been a Republican stronghold, Sanders made it clear from the beginning why he was visiting the Lone Star state.

“The reason I am here is that I do know that this state is controlled by Republicans and I’m here with you to change that," he told the crowd.

Several thousand people packed into a ballroom at the Sheraton Dallas in downtown. The crowds were so packed that some had to stand in an overflow room.

The independent senator from Vermont said his campaign strategy was to visit every state.

“If we are serious about changing America, we can’t do it in just blue states,” he said. 

Sanders can’t afford not to. His biggest rival for the Democratic nomination is former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She has a big lead in the race among Democrats, but Sanders has been steadily rising in the polls and raking in smaller donations. Most of his donations have been $200 or less.

He never mentioned Clinton, or any other rivals in his Dallas speech, but he did go after billionaires and large corporations.

“The billionaire class has unbelievable power, economic power, political power, power over the media. In which large campaign contributors own many politicians," he said.

During his one-hour event, Sanders spoke about issues that resonated with the crowd, which included college students and middle-aged voters. He spoke about his concerns about growing income inequality, big banks and Wall Street, lowering student loan interest rates and putting more money into Social Security.

Devorah Titunik from Bedford was in the crowd. She recently lost her job and she said she could relate to what Sanders had to say.

“He’s the first who has mentioned people like me who are over 50 who’ve been let go of their jobs, to be replaced by people who get less, and finding one is next to impossible," she said. "I’m really glad he brought that up because there’s a lot of us.” 

While many observers consider Sanders a long-shot, most people in this crowd were optimistic about his chances against Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

Sanders’ appearance in Dallas was much smoother than his visit Saturday to the Netroots Nation conference in Phoenix, Arizona. There, demonstrators protested the treatment of African-Americans by police, and they chanted “Black Lives Matter." They interrupted a forum featuring Martin O’Malley, a Democratic presidential candidate.

Protestors also heckled Sanders.

On Sunday in Dallas, Sanders addressed the issue of race, which was met with cheers.

“When we look at names like Sandra Bland, or Eric Garner or Freddie Grey, we understand that what we want is a nation that a young black man or woman can walk down the street not worrying about being falsely arrested or beaten or killed.”

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.