Supporters open office in continued Bernie-mentum

Members with the Progressive Democrats of America recently unveiled a local Phoenix office in support of Democratic Presidential nominee Bernie Sanders.

Nestled within the heart of the Grand Avenue Arts District, a small association of politically-motivated activists work long and hard hours within the small confines of {9} The Gallery, an art-gallery-turned-campaign-office, advocating for the presidency of Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders.

Although the bright, vivacious area does not seem like the ideal campaign location for the 73-year-old senator, supporters working at the "We Want Bernie" office believe there is more than enough time to encourage voters of all ages not only to vote, but to vote for Sanders in the 400-plus days before the election.

The "We Want Bernie" campaign office, which officially opened last Saturday, has already seen an influx of support for Sanders, welcoming unconventional methods of recognition such as the Vermont independent depicted in a graffiti painting.

The Phoenix office will be home to volunteers assisting with duties that mainly include making calls to registered voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina before the early primaries in those.

Robert Keiser, one of the office volunteers at the "We Want Bernie" office and a member of Progressive Democrats of America, said the eccentric location of the office is important because of the visibility.

"We wanted a space that, first, had pretty good visibility, so we wanted it to be on a street that had some pretty good traffic on it," he said. "We needed an office that was fairly centrally located, so Phoenix, being kind of the hub of the metropolitan area, was our first choice."

Sanders is quickly on the way to becoming a Democratic front-runner, leading polls in several major primary states and quickly garnering public support across the nation. A data check as of Aug. 25 shows that while Sanders is leading in New Hampshire, he is falling to fellow Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in the Iowa polls.

In July, Sanders held a presidential campaign rally in Phoenix, speaking to the largest audience of his campaign thus far. More than 11,000 supporters came out to hear the Senator touch on widespread issues, from income inequality to making college education affordable.

Members of the political organization, Progressive Democrats of America, including Keiser, saw the energy Sanders brought to the city during the rally and realized there was a huge opportunity to advocate for his presidency right here in Phoenix.

"We felt that there was such a widespread amount of support for Bernie," Keiser said. "At the rally, there was just a high amount of energy, enthusiasm; people were excited about Bernie being our next President. Progressive Democrats of America felt that, 'Let's open an office and tap into all that excitement and all that energy that we saw at that rally.' "

Keiser said he hopes the younger generation, especially college students, will get out to the polls and vote for Sanders in order to change their future for the better. 

"Whether it's economic, climate-based, equality, those are things that our younger generation, if they get the information and start thinking about it, the things that should compel them to be more interested and more involved in politics," he said. "It's all things that are going to affect them."

Political science senior Patrick Morales is working many hours to try and inform ASU students about Sanders' platform, using campus wide exposure to get his message out. 

"Right now, we have a small drop-off office for the headquarters for the next few weeks, we're focused on creating a club and start reaching out to campus and start recruiting from campus," he said. 

Morales said he also advocates Sanders' campaign policy to provide students with a debt-free future, one of the major items on his platform that he hopes students will get out and vote for. 

"The big thing with Bernie is that he's offering a debt-free future and free education as part of his platform," he said. "Personally, that's something I really believe in: education as a right instead of education as a business."

Even satirical organizations who claim not to get behind Sanders still advocate for his success in the election. Nick Collins, a member of Billionaires and Oligarchs Opposing Bernie Sanders, or B.O.O.B.S, is an active supporter of the presidential candidate.

B.O.O.B.S. got its start long before Sanders announced his presidential run, Collins said. The organization loosely began with the involvement of activists from Billionaires For Bush in New York City, before trickling down to Phoenix to become Billionaires For Wealthcare in 2009. 

Under the influence of Collins and one of his colleagues with Progressive Democrats of America, the group then molded into B.O.O.B.S, an organization that prides itself on focusing on issues rather than candidates. 

Collins said he believes Sanders is the best presidential candidate thus far due to his continued activism against monied influence. 

"We think Bernie is the best choice over any Republicans or any other Dems so far," he said in an email. "No other presidential candidate is talking so much about the monied influence as Bernie is. And if they're not talking about it, then they are likely part of the problem."

Related Links:

ASU student hosts gathering to support Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders speaks about income inequality to his largest audience yet at Phoenix rally


Reach the reporter at Jlsuerth@asu.edu or follow @SuerthJessica on Twitter.

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