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Sanders stumps for Clinton, Nolan in Duluth

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United States senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, shakes hands with supporters at the end of a rally for the Clinton Kaine presidential ticket at the Kirby Ballroom on the campus of the University of Minnesota Duluth Tuesday night. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)2 / 2

In a speech dotted with support for the middle class and American-made steel, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders made the case for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton while repeatedly criticizing the actions of the top 1 percent of American earners.

"So we've got half of our kids in public schools living in poverty and on our free and reduced-price lunch programs, we've got veterans sleeping out on the street, we have a serious lack of affordable housing, our infrastructure is collapsing and we have billionaires who are not paying a nickel in taxes because of a rigged and corrupt tax system," Sanders said.

Before a room packed with young people Tuesday, the Vermont senator outlined Clinton's support for free public colleges and universities for families earning less than $125,000, livable minimum wages, a healthy and habitable environment and campaign finance reform. The crowd filling the Kirby Ballroom at the University of Minnesota Duluth responded with applause, chants and shouts — and boos whenever Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's name was mentioned.

"You know that this country is the wealthiest country in the history of the world. But the problem is that almost all of that wealth rests in the hands of the 1 percent, and our job is to create a government which represents all of us, not just the 1 percent, and to tell Mr. Trump and his billionaire friends, no, they are not going to continue to get it all," Sanders said to cheers.

Tuesday's UMD visit was Sanders' second stop of the day at a Minnesota campus to rally support for Democratic presidential nominee, and his former opponent in the presidential race, Hillary Clinton. U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan also received Sanders' support throughout the speech, and while never mentioning him by name, Sanders characterized Nolan's opponent, Republican Stewart Mills III, as a wealthy candidate attempting to buy the election in Minnesota's 8th Congressional District.

However, the Republican Party of Minnesota took issue with Sanders' visit to Minnesota, pointing out the large margin of support Sanders received in Minnesota's DFL caucuses in March. Chairman Keith Downey said in a statement that Sanders "betrayed his supporters" to endorse Clinton, whose supporters are "shutting down political speech and intimidating college students." He called for Sanders to disavow Clinton's "intimidation tactics" and "outrageous attacks" on freedom of speech in Minnesota.

Amanda Peterson, chairwoman of the Minnesota College Republicans, also touched on the support Sanders received in the state during the caucuses.

"The Democrats are clearly worried about how Hillary Clinton will do in Minnesota this November, which is why they are intimidating open Trump supporters on campuses, vandalizing pro-Trump messages and sending Bernie Sanders to the two largest schools in Minnesota today to campaign on Secretary Clinton's behalf," Peterson said in a statement.

In an interview with the News Tribune before Tuesday's UMD rally, Sanders acknowledged that some of his supporters are still apprehensive about switching their support to Clinton. Sanders twice drew large crowds in northern Minnesota during his own run for president prior to Clinton's nomination.

"But I think the vast majority of the people who voted for me understand that electing Donald Trump would be disaster for this country, that Secretary Clinton has a very strong agenda for the middle class and working families and that it's imperative that we elect her," he said.

When asked if he would consider a position in Clinton's cabinet if she were elected and offered him a position, Sanders responded that it's premature to consider that role and that he's "very proud to be a Vermont senator."

The economy has made progress under President Barack Obama, but not everyone has been a part of the economic rebound since the recession.

"There are a lot of people who continue to hurt, unemployment remains too high, wages remain too low and that's why I think people should take a hard look at what Secretary Clinton is talking about. She's talking about raising the minimum wage to a living wage, making public colleges and universities tuition-free, pay equity for women who now make 79 cents on the dollar to men, rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, and by the way using a lot of steel, American steel, to rebuild our bridges and our roads and our water systems. I think that if people take a look at Clinton's various proposals, I think they will find her the superior candidate," he told the News Tribune.

In comparison to Trump's rhetoric on the campaign trail, Sanders pointed out the progress made by minority groups in American history. Discrimination dates back to the earliest days of the United States when Native Americans were infected with diseases by white settlers and blacks were brought to this country in the slave trade, Sanders said. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has endured beatings and humiliation, and women were unable to vote or receive an education.

"This country has struggled for hundreds of years trying to overcome discrimination — discrimination against Native Americans, against African Americans, against Asian Americans, against Italians, against Irish, against Jews, against everybody and anybody. We've always had discrimination and we should be glad as a people that we have come a very long way. In fact, this generation, the student generation of today is the least bigoted generation in the history of this country," Sanders said.

He continued, saying, "And yet today, despite the progress that we have made, we have a candidate running for president and the cornerstone of his campaign is bigotry and dividing us up."

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