Fetterman supporters ‘feel the Bern’ during Philly endorsement rally

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders visits Philadelphia to back fellow progressive John Fetterman who's seeking Democratic nomination to run for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor

Two years after his failed bid for president, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders can still fire up a big crowd.

On Friday, hundreds spent part of their evening cheering his progressive agenda during a rally outside Philadelphia City Hall.

During his short time on stage, Sanders again called for universal health care, free college tuition, and raising the minimum wage. He railed against Big Pharma and President Donald Trump.

“We have a president who wants to divide us up based on the color of our skin, where we come from, or whether we’re male or female or gay or straight,” Sanders said. “We’ve got a message for Mr. Trump: This country has suffered too much over the years from bigotry and discrimination. We are not going back.”

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The hourlong rally, part of Sanders’ two-day swing through Pennsylvania, was also organized for Sanders to publicly endorse Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, a candidate in Pennsylvania’s crowded Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.

Sanders told the crowd he wants to work with Fetterman – an early supporter of Sanders’ presidential campaign – to move the country forward.

“What John’s campaign is about — and what the progressive message is about — is that we are going to transform this country and create a government that works for all of us, not just wealthy campaign contributors,” said Sanders.

Fetterman has led Braddock, a former steel town outside Pittsburgh, since 2005. He ran to join Sanders in the U.S. Senate in 2016, but lost the Democratic primary.

With his wife, Gisele, looking on, Fetterman ticked off a resume he thinks will earn him a win this time around.

“I have seen first hand what a living wage of $15 an hour or more can do. I have seen first hand what happens when a community loses health care and is able to get it back. I have seen firsthand the ravages of systemic inequality and society. And I have dedicated my professional life to fighting against that,” he said.

Fetterman is one of four Democrats taking the unusual step of trying to unseat incumbent Democrat Mike Stack as lieutenant governor.  Stack is considered vulnerable because of an icy relationship with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, as well as claims that he and his wife verbally abused their security detail and state staffers assigned to the lieutenant governor’s mansion.

Nina Ahmad, a former deputy mayor in Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration, hopes to become just the second female lieutenant governor in state history. Similar to Wolf, she wants to tax natural gas drillers and use the revenue to pay for schools. Ahmad is also pushing to provide universal pre-K for all Pennsylvanians.

Kathi Cozzone, a Chester County commissioner, serves as chair of the County Government Workgroup on the Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force — an appointment made by Wolf. She’s also worked to cut the number of mentally ill inmates in county prisons.

Ray Sosa, a banker from Montgomery County, wants to “break the prison to poverty pipeline” and provide better broadband and internet access to the rural sections of Pennsylvania. A Puerto Rico native, Sosa would be the state’s first Hispanic lieutenant governor.

Three Republicans are also running for the seat.

Pennsylvania is one of 18 states in the country that elects a governor and a lieutenant governor separately. While largely a ceremonial post, the lieutenant governor does preside over the state Senate, the Board of Pardons and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Council, which coordinates the state’s response to man-made and natural disasters.

The post comes with a salary of roughly $160,000 – the highest in the country for a lieutenant governor. Pennsylvania’s primary election for both parties is May 15.

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