Sanders stumps for Clinton at YSU

Tribune Chronicle / Guy Vogrin Former Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont gets a selfie with an unidentified student during a campaign stop for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on Thursday at Youngstown State University.

YOUNGSTOWN — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders came to the campus of Youngstown State University Thursday  and hit on some familiar themes that made him so popular with college students earlier this year as he sought the Democratic presidential nomination.

A more subdued Sanders, I-Vt., who gave nominee Hillary Clinton a run for her money in the primaries, was campaigning for his former opponent as the campaign hits the home stretch. Chris Moyer, regional director for the Clinton campaign, said the crowd numbered 340 people, according to the fire marshal.

The atmosphere inside a side gymnasium at Stambaugh Stadium also was more subdued than Sanders’ first visit to Youngstown prior to the March primary, when about 700 people showed up at the Covelli Centre for a lively political rally.

Republican nominee Donald Trump and billionaires who try to influence government were the main targets during Sanders’ 45-minute speech. It touched on middle-class issues like the low minimum wage, affordable health care for all,  the waning influence of unions and the affordability of a college education. He urged the crowd of students to think big and vote Democratic and then get involved after Tuesday’s election.

“Government wants you to think in tiny bits, but if you are going to  make a difference in this country, that will have to change,” Sanders said.

One of the issues that needs to be changed, Sanders said, is campaign financing.

“When people are putting their lives on the line and willing to die in service to their country, you should not let billionaires like the Koch brothers buy elections and set up an oligarchy,” Sanders said.

Sanders said Trump is trying to frame this race in the form of personalities.

“They are portraying this like an election for senior class president, a popularity contest,” Sanders said. “But there is much more at stake, and the issues are too important.”

Sanders said Clinton is the only one who can bring the minimum wage up to $15 per hour and provide lower rates for college loans.

Lashing out at Trump’s “bigotry,” Sanders said Clinton understands that diversity is “this country’s greatest strength.”

“Remember, Trump was one of the leaders of the birther movement,” Sanders said of those questioning the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s birth certificate, “which was a racist effort to undermine our first elected African-American president.”

Randy Law, Trumbull County Republican Party chairman, said Sanders playing the “bigotry” card is part of  Democrat “demagoguery.”

“It is right out of their playbook,” said Law, who thinks that Ohio is going to be in the Republican column Tuesday night. “It will be a late night. We expect to put Trump over the top with the results from Nevada.”

Three Trumbull County YSU students were among the crowd listening to Sanders.

Luc Herman, a Warren G. Harding High School graduate majoring an industrial engineering at YSU, said he voted for Sanders in the primary.

“I would have preferred to see Sanders become president,” Herman said, noting that he intends to vote for Clinton.

His sister, Alicia, a Warren John F. Kennedy High School graduate, is majoring in political science. Alicia Herman said she is taking Sanders up on his exhortation to get involved.

“Last summer, I canvassed voters for the Democratic Party, and I still plan to be active in government,” Alicia Herman said.

Matthew Luonuansuu, another JFK graduate majoring in business and graphic design at YSU, said he thinks Sanders’ primary bid actually is helping the Democrats this fall.

“I believe Bernie lit a fire under Hillary,” Luonuansuu said.

Taking the podium before Sanders’ speech was United Auto Workers Local 1714 member Andy Bokras of Mineral Ridge. He said union members in the Mahoning Valley should remember who backed the auto industry during the recession of 2008-09.

“I know which politicians had our backs and which were only acting that way because they wanted our votes,” Bokras said.