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Nov 5, 2015 11:34 PM

Steinhauser: In 1-on-1 with NH1 News, Sanders says Clinton, O'Malley unfair on gun control; denies changing tune on Clinton's emails

NH1 Political Director -

CONCORD –Bernie Sanders says he thinks Democratic presidential nomination rivals Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley are being a little unfair in ganging up on him over the issue of gun control.

And in a one-on-one interview with NH1 News, the senator from Vermont pushed back against those who suggest he’s changing his tune on the former secretary of state’s email controversy, saying “what I’m saying is exactly what I said during the debate, word for word.”

Sanders sat down for an interview at the NH1 News studios on Thursday afternoon, minutes before he headed to the State House to file to put his name on the first-in-the-nation primary ballot.

Sanders has recently repeatedly come under attack by Clinton and former Maryland Gov. O’Malley for some past congressional votes against gun control efforts.

Asked if he thinks his treatment at the hands of his Democratic rivals has been unfair, Sanders responded “I think so. I come from a state that has virtually no gun control. And yet I have cast some very, very, difficult votes to make sure that guns in this country do not fall into the hands of people who should not have them.”

And Sanders pushed back against the suggestion that he’s cozied up to the powerful National Rifle Association.

“The NRA has opposed me in almost every election that I’ve been in,” he said. “I have a lifetime voting record with the NRA of about D-minus. So I don’t think that quite makes me a tool of the NRA.”

Sanders spoke one-on-one with NH1 News one day after he told the Wall Street Journal that there are “valid questions’ regarding the former secretary of state’s email controversy, and that the federal investigation should “proceed unimpeded.”

He disagreed with those who suggest that’s a break from what he said last month at the first Democratic presidential debate, when he stated that “the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.”

Sanders won praise for not attacking Clinton over the controversy, which has been a persistent thorn in the side of her White House bid this year. And his move was seen as a gift for Clinton. The new comments he made to the Wall Street Journal where characterized as Sanders taking off the gloves as Clinton’s poll numbers continue to rise.

But Sanders campaign pointed out that the senator told CNN, minutes after the end of their debate on October 13, that "there is a process in place for the email situation that Hillary Clinton is dealing with. Let it play itself out."

Thursday, Sanders told NH1 News that “what I said is there is a process which will take place regarding her emails. Period. End of discussion. What I said also and what I believe is that the American people are tired of hearing about her emails. What the American people want to discuss is why the middle class in this country is disappearing, why we have massive levels of income and wealth inequality, why we have the highest childhood poverty rate of almost any major country on earth.

Asked if he thinks there should be a Senate or joint Senate-House investigation into the emails, Sanders said “I have no brilliant thoughts on this.”

Sanders was the clear front runner in polls in the first-in-the-nation primary state from the summer through early October. But Clinton’s tied with him in an average of the post-debate surveys in the Granite State polls. Sander has criticized the media for spending too much time discussing the polls, but he recently hired his own pollster for his campaign.

Asked if he’s starting to run a conventional campaign of the kind he’s disdained, Sanders said “what polling is about for me is that if we are attacked, how do we best deal with those attacks. No I don’t think you’re going to see us running a conventional campaign. Our campaign is about a grassroots revolution.”

Sanders then touted his grassroots efforts, saying “we’ve brought out 17,000 people in New Hampshire at our meeting and rallies.”

No incident at filing

After finishing up with his NH1 News interview, Sanders headed a few blocks south to the State House. He walked through corridors jam-packed with throngs of his supporters as he made his way to the Secretary of State’s office.

There’s been talk for months that New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner would possibly challenge Sanders eligibility to run as a Democrat when he filled out the paperwork needed for filing to put his name on the primary ballot. Sander’s is the longest serving independent in Congress, and has twice rejected Democratic Party nominations back home in Vermont.

But Sanders now says he’s a Democrat as he runs for the party’s presidential nomination, and he was accompanied on his trip to Gardner’s office by New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Raymond Buckley.

After filing, Sanders told reporters that “this campaign right now, I am running as a Democrat.”

“When you have the chairperson of the Vermont Democratic Party saying that I am a Democrat and the chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party saying I am a Democrat and should be on the ballot, I don’t think I have to prove much more,” Sanders said. “I think we have fulfilled those requirements.”

Later Gardner told NH1 News, WMUR and the Concord Monitor that he hadn’t seen any evidence to challenge Sander’s eligibility.

“I haven’t received any document or letter specifically about that from anyone,” he said.

But Gardner added that until the filing period ends on November 20, anyone can visit his office with information he or she thinks shows Sanders is ineligible to run for the White House as a Democrat.

After filing and speaking to reporters, Sanders headed outside to the plaza at the State House to speak to a large rally of supporters.

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