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Bernie Sanders, Jill Biden rev up supporters in St. Louis ahead of Tuesday’s presidential primary

Bernie Sanders, Jill Biden rev up supporters in St. Louis ahead of Tuesday’s presidential primary

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ST. LOUIS — Missouri voters go to the polls Tuesday in the state’s presidential primary following election eve appearances here by one of the two major Democratic contenders and the wife of the other.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont revved up supporters at a packed Stifel Theatre downtown on Monday morning, imploring them to “reinvigorate democracy” by activating people who have given up on it.

“What our job is is to bring people into the political process so that we can create a government that works for working families, not just the 1%,” Sanders said.

Sanders spoke for about 40 minutes in St. Louis.

Later Monday, former second lady Jill Biden spoke to a room of supporters at the Cheshire hotel, which straddles the boundaries of St. Louis and St. Louis County.

On Tuesday, 68 delegates will be at stake in Missouri: 44 will be awarded based on performance in each congressional district, and the remaining 24 will be apportioned based on the state’s popular vote.

As of Monday afternoon, former Vice President Joe Biden had 664 delegates, and Sanders, 573, according to an Associated Press delegate tracker.

Sanders jabbed Biden for voting for the war in Iraq, and for supporting “disastrous” trade agreements and “Wall Street bailouts.” He said he would back Biden, however, if the former vice president wins the Democratic nomination.

Sanders said he would win in November by advocating for an agenda that “works for all of us.” He said the federal government should raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, ensure access to health care and equal pay for equal work, make unions easier to join, and rebuild the country’s “crumbling infrastructure.”

Sanders also said the United States should triple funding for low-income schools, and end the “very destructive” war on drugs by legalizing marijuana.

“We’ve got to work aggressively to expunge the records of those arrested,” Sanders said.

He also said his administration would propose strong measures to deal with gun violence.

“Our administration will bring forth the strongest gun safety legislation ever proposed in the United States,” Sanders said.

Before the speech, St. Louis Alderman Megan Green, D-15th Ward, said Sanders would fight for issues with resonance in Missouri, such as ensuring abortion access and outlawing “right to work” laws, which ban the collection of union dues as a condition of employment.

“We need a president who is going to ban ‘right to work’ nationally,” Green said of the law Missouri voters struck down in 2018.

St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones, who narrowly lost the 2017 race for mayor, said she was known as “the people’s mayor” in introducing herself to the crowd. She rebutted Sanders’ critics who say he would be “too risky” in a general election against President Donald Trump.

“Right now is not the time for incrementalism,” Jones said.

Jones had previously backed Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the primary, but she dropped out of the race last week.

“In 2015 he was saying Black Lives Matter when other people were calling us terrorists, when other candidates were saying ‘All Lives Matter,’” said Cori Bush, an activist involved in the Ferguson protests who is running against U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay in the August Democratic primary.

Mike McKeown, a 33-year-old web designer from Kirkwood, said he was impressed by Sanders’ Medicare for All plan, an expansion of the public health insurance program that would cover everyone in America, according to Sanders’ campaign website.

“We have a huge problem with uninsured and under-insured people,” McKeown said outside the Stifel Theatre. “That’s just not right in the richest country in the world.”

Jill Biden at the Cheshire

On Monday evening, members of the International Association of Firefighters union flanked Jill Biden and waved yellow yard signs as she addressed the crowd. The campaign said about 380 people attended the event.

Biden, who spoke for about 20 minutes, said her husband had a track record of accomplishments — including securing votes for the Affordable Care Act — and said he would assemble a “winning coalition” to win races up and down the ballot this November.

“With Joe at the top of the ticket, Democrats in the most liberal cities and the most conservative ones will be able to run with him, not run away from him,” Biden said in an implicit jab at Sanders.

Former state Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights, said gun violence prevention had always been her top issue as a public official. She originally backed California Sen. Kamala Harris in the primary, and then former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

She said Joe Biden has long worked on gun violence prevention, and said he had the best chance of beating Trump in November.

Bree Bowen of St. Louis also attended Biden’s speech. She described herself as a moderate Democrat who had supported Pete Buttigieg until he dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden.

Bowen said Joe Biden “has a better chance of uniting our party” than Sanders.

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