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Sanders is out of the presidential race, but Pa. supporters say they’ll carry on his mission

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a rally in Reading, Pa. (Branden Eastwood for WHYY)

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a rally in Reading, Pa. (Branden Eastwood for WHYY)

Bernie Sanders is ending his presidential campaign. In his parting words Wednesday morning, he urged supporters not to give up on the progressive movement he has spent the past five years trying to nurture.

In Pennsylvania, a coalition of Sanders-supporting politicians is taking that charge seriously.

Sanders won five official endorsements from elected officials in the commonwealth, far fewer than Scranton-born Joe Biden, now the presumptive Democratic nominee.

But his endorsers — state Reps. Summer Lee (D-Allegheny), Sara Innamorato (D-Allegheny) and Elizabeth Fiedler (D-Philadelphia), and Philadelphia City Councilmembers Helen Gym and Kendra Brooks — said support for Sanders’ actual policies is much broader.

In a joint statement, they wrote that the end of Sanders’ campaign is “not an endpoint. The fight continues with even greater urgency.”

They added that while they are committed to beating President Donald Trump in November’s election, they believe Biden should “commit to the policies that energize the base of this party: Medicare for all, the Green New Deal, ending the mass detention and deportation of immigrants, and embracing a long-term economic restructuring as evidenced in Senator Sanders’ COVID-19 plan.”

Fiedler, who formerly was a reporter at WHYY and was elected in November 2018 alongside fellow Democratic Socialists of America-backed candidates Innamorato and Lee, said the grassroots nature of Sanders’ 2016 campaign was one of the things that convinced her to run for office in the first place.

“We plan to build on … including more people in electoral politics, and in the conversations generally about what people want to see,” she said. “That is Medicare for all, that’s free college and cancellation of student debt, that’s a fifteen dollar minimum wage.”

Lee added that while Sanders’ loss is a setback, she thinks even moderate Democratic politicians in Pennsylvania have already incorporated some of his ideas.

“Moderates may not like the words Medicare for all, but they know it’s the policy direction we should be moving in,” she said

Biden’s campaign released a statement from the former vice president commending Sanders, saying that he “has done something rare in politics. He hasn’t just run a political campaign; he’s created a movement.”

Biden didn’t commit to taking on any of Sanders’ specific policy positions, but did credit the senator with bringing issues like “income inequality, universal health care, climate change, free college [and] relieving students from the crushing debt of student loans” to the center of the public debate.

“While Bernie and I may not agree on how we might get there, we agree on the ultimate goal for these issues and many more,” he said.

In his concession speech, Sanders called Biden a “decent man” and said he’d work with him going forward, but added he still plans to collect delegates in the remaining primaries in hopes of exerting as much influence over the party platform as possible at the Democratic National Convention.

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