Bernie Sanders rallies Bay Area voters

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders arrived in San Jose Wednesday¬†for a rally that drew thousands of people who listened to his platform less than three weeks away from the state’s primary election.

Sanders was met with cheers and claps as he spoke from a podium at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds where he addressed the crowd for about 30 minutes on numerous issues including the economy, immigration and health care.

The diverse crowd held blue signs displaying his campaign slogan, “A Future to Believe In” and many wore shirts that read “Feel The Bern.”

Sanders said:

“The reason that this campaign is doing so well is a pretty simple one and that is we are telling the truth.”

Sanders came to San Jose ahead of the state primary election on June 7, when he hopes to gain 475 delegates that can help him win the Democratic nomination.

Sanders has won 20 states in the primary elections across the country including his most recent gain in Oregon on Tuesday.

Chris Webb, 30, of San Jose, predicted the state’s Democratic primary will be a close vote, similar to the close margin Kentucky saw on Tuesday:

“Bernie’s been consistent for his whole career that’s why he’s a lock vote for me.”

Sanders was most proud of winning by large margins the majority of votes from young people, who he called the “future of our country.”

Sanders’ campaign is also confronting the country’s “rigged economy” in which the top one-tenth of the one percent has as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. He’s also supportive of raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Sanders discussed building a health care system under Medicare that benefits everyone, an issue that was important for Milpitas resident Rita Lambro.

Lambro, 76, is a retired nurse who worked in the intensive care unit at Regional Medical Center of San Jose, where she saw many people who didn’t see a doctor until they “deathly ill” because they lacked insurance:

“We’re the only civilized country in the world that doesn’t have it and we’re one of the richest.”

Sanders also addressed closing the gender pay gap, guaranteeing paid family and medical leave and imposing taxes on people in Wall Street.

In addition, Sanders called for free tuition to public colleges and universities and allowing college graduates to refinance their student loans.

Michelle Rivera, 21, of Fremont, was interested in Sanders’ plan on college tuition, which she said has increasingly become more expensive every year.

Rivera is currently an Ohlone College student who plans to transfer to a four-year university for a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Sanders called for the need to rebuild inner cities, create affordable housing and to preserve nature:

“The American people understand that coming together always trumps dividing us up.”

He was also supportive of a state ballot measure to legalize marijuana, currently classified as a Schedule 1 drug that he said should be taken off of the list of federal controlled substances.

Sanders also took time to address the difficulties faced by people of color including those in the Latino, African-American and Native American communities.

If elected president, Sanders said he would use executive power to help pass comprehensive immigration reform if Congress doesn’t do so and end the current deportation policies:

“Our job is to bring families together, not separate them.”

Drew Vote, 44, of San Jose, believed the large crowd today at the fairgrounds demonstrated Sanders’ strong chance of winning the primary next month:

“My takeaway from this is the true level of diversity of we the people. You see every slice of American life here.”

Vote’s girlfriend, 34-year-old Christina Smith of San Jose, is three-quarters Native American and said Sanders is the only candidate in the election standing up for the group’s issues.

Smith called this year’s election the couple’s version of the Super Bowl, that has kept them glued to the TV.

Sanders is scheduled to attend a 7:30 p.m. program at Vallejo’s Waterfront Park expected to draw an estimated 10,000 to 18,000 people downtown. City officials are advising the public of traffic in the area for the event.