May 27, 2015 5:39 PM
NH1 Political Director - NH1.com
CONCORD – Bernie Sanders says it’s time Hillary Clinton takes a stance on a controversial trade deal that’s dividing Democrats.
And the independent senator from Vermont, who’s running for the Democratic presidential nomination, tells NH1 News he’s not concerned about more competition on the left.
At an event in downtown Concord Wednesday, one day after formally kicking off his campaign at a large rally in his hometown of Burlington, Vermont, Sanders criticized Clinton, saying “I just don’t know how you don’t have an opinion on this important issue.”
The issue is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade deal the U.S. is negotiating with more than a dozen Pacific rim countries. Last Friday, the former secretary of state told reporters following an event in Hampton that “we don’t yet have all the details. It’s not as I’m told, been fully negotiated yet. I do have concerns. I do have concerns that the standards will not be tough enough, not enforceable.”
“I want to judge this when I see what’s exactly is in it and whether it meets my standards,” added Clinton, the overwhelming frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.
Sanders told NH1 News that “I think it’s important for Sec. Clinton and all candidates, not just Sec. Clinton, to have an opinion on the issue, you can be for it, you can be against it, I’m against it.”
“Trade is one of the important issues facing the United States of America and there’s right now a very hot debate in the Congress over whether or not we pass this TPP. I believe that NAFTA, CAFTA, normal trade relations with China and other trade agreements have been a disaster for the working families in this country because corporations have used these trade agreements to shut down, move to China, and other low wage countries. The president of the United States, who I like, disagrees with me. There are other people who disagree with me. That’s called democracy,” Sanders added.
Sanders talked to NH1 News moments after speaking to a couple of hundred energized supporters who packed into New England College’s Concord offices. Sanders excited the crowd with calls for “every public college and public university in this country will be tuition free.”
He also urged that “the United States has got to join the rest of the industrial world for a Medicare for all single player program, guaranteed health care for everyone.”
Near the end of the event, speaking about Clinton, one passionate Sanders supporter told the senator that “I want to be able to kick her butt. We need to move ahead. What can we do to get this moving forward. Why can’t we ask Hillary to give up her spot and give it to you.”
After giving the crowd a moment to laugh, Sanders responding, saying “I could be wrong but I suspect she (Clinton) would disagree with you.”
Sanders not worried about competition
Since last autumn, Sanders, a former Burlington mayor and congressman who describes himself as a Democratic socialist, has been a frequent visitor to the first-in-the-nation primary state. While he’s a longshot against Clinton, he has strong support among many progressives and liberals, who had been hoping for a White House run by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
But Sanders will soon have competition on the left. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s expected to announce his candidacy for the Democratic nomination on Saturday. And former Rhode Island senator and governor Lincoln Chafee appears to be moving towards launching a presidential campaign next month.
Asked by NH1 News if he’s concerned about the competition, Sanders said “I think the more the merrier and I look forward to an issue orientated campaign and debate.”
Following the event at New England College’s Concord office, Sanders walked about a block north, to speak to an overflow crowd that had patiently waited in the heat to see the senator.
Grabbing a megaphone, Sanders said “what we should be about is a country which creates millions of decent paying jobs so that the middle class can start expanding rather than disappearing .”
“What we should be about is a country which says to every young person, if you have the ability, the desire, you can go to college regardless of the income of your family,” he added to applause.
Before he left, Sanders vowed that “we’re going to be back here in New Hampshire, we’re going to be running a very grassroots campaign. That’s what I’ve always done in Vermont and that’s what we’re going to do here. That means town meetings, that means rallies, that means knocking on doors.”
“We’re with ya,” yelled two supporters as the crowd cheered.
Sanders not only won supporters with his talk, he also grabbed an endorsement. State Rep. Richard McNamara made some news, telling NH1 News that he had just decided to endorse Sanders. The Democrat from the town of Hilsborough said Sanders “is someone who has stuck to the message over many, many years.”
“From my standpoint, get the progressive message out,” McNamara added.
Wednesday late afternoon Sanders held an event in Epping. And in the evening he was scheduled to hold a rally in Portsmouth.
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