Bernie Sanders Fires up Progressives at Pair of L.A. Fundraisers

Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press
Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

President Obama and Hillary Clinton weren’t the only two top-level Democrats on the West Coast this weekend – on Saturday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) fired up the progressive base at a pair of L.A.-area fundraising events to benefit his 2016 presidential campaign.

Sanders, a self-described socialist who has emerged as a potentially serious challenger to Clinton’s own presidential aspirations, attended fundraisers Saturday at the Van Nuys home of actress Mimi Kennedy and the Brentwood Park home of longtime progressive activists Betty and Stanley Sheinbaum, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The events were reportedly attended by about 300 people, including Hollywood film producers Richard Foos and Cindy Gilmore Asner, actress/producer Sheila Emery, and Days of Our Lives actress Deidre Hall.

“Our campaign is catching fire,” Sanders reportedly told the crowd in the front yard of Kennedy’s Van Nuys home. “It’s for one simple reason: we are telling the truth. And I think that’s what the American people want to hear. The truth may not be necessarily pleasant, but we can’t go forward unless we have the courage to take a hard look at where we are today. And where we are today is not in a good place.”

Sanders’ campaign does appear to be on the up-swing; two polls taken earlier this month reveal that, where Clinton once held a commanding lead in several key primary states, Sanders is catching up. The Vermont senator trails Clinton by just eight points in Wisconsin, and 12 points in New Hampshire. A recent Sanders event in Iowa drew roughly triple the crowd of a New York City Clinton fundraiser, and a new study revealed earlier this month that Sanders is the only presidential candidate, either Republican or Democrat, to drastically increase his Internet presence across multiple media platforms.

Sanders has focused on populist progressive issues like Wall Street regulation and income inequality in his first months on the campaign trail. He has vowed to fight back against the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, which opened the door to increased political spending by corporations and deep-pocketed donors, and he has made universal healthcare a central tenet of his campaign.

Former California state Senator Tom Hayden reportedly introduced Sanders at the Van Nuys event.

“I’m here with my wife and my friends because we believe Bernie is providing us with the opportunity to have a voice and a role in the Democratic process at a time when progressives are on the rise,” Hayden told THR.

In Brentwood Park, Sanders addressed an “overflowing” afternoon crowd at the Sheinbaum home:

“In this country, when we stand together there are extraordinary things we can do. We can provide health care to all of our people. We can create decent paying jobs for all of our people. We can lead the world in terms of combating climate change. We can end racism and sexism and homophobia in the United States. We can end the disgrace of having the highest rate of childhood poverty. All of that is possible. This is not a poor country. This is a rich country. So work with me please in bringing about this political revolution.”

On Saturday night, Sanders flew to Colorado, where he gave a speech to approximately 5,500 people at the University of Denver. According to the Washington Post, the gymnasium where Sanders spoke was so packed that speakers needed to be set up in an adjacent atrium and on the lacrosse field to accommodate all those who wanted to attend. For comparison, Hillary Clinton’s team has said that about 5,500 people attended the relaunch of her campaign at New York City’s Roosevelt Island last week.

President Obama and Clinton was also in Los Angeles this weekend to attend fundraising events.

Obama raised money at the homes of television producer Chuck Lorre and actor/filmmaker Tyler Perry to benefit the Democratic National Committee and the DNC’s 2016 White House Victory Fund, while Clinton attended three $2,700 per ticket fundraisers at the homes of actor Tobey Maguire, HBO executive Michael Lombardo and Westfield Corp. co-CEO Peter Lowy.