Bernie Sanders campaigns with Democratic congressional candidate Eric Kingson
The last time Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) campaigned in Syracuse, he did so on behalf of his own presidential bid. Even though he has not yet conceded the race to Secretary Hillary Clinton, he spoke on Friday about his desire to shape the future of the party as an advocate rather than a candidate.
“It is about creating a government which represents all of us, not just the few," Sanders said. "But to make that happen, we need strong members of the U.S. Congress, members who have the guts to stand up to powerful special interests, members who are prepared not just to spend their lives raising money from wealthy people, but to be working and representing the ordinary people of their communities. And, Eric is going to be one of those members. Eric, I’m going to do my best to make sure you have a lot of good company in the Congress cause we’re running all over this country to elect excellent members of the Congress like Eric.”
Like Sanders, Kingson is further left on several issues than his opponents in the Democratic primary, former Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) staffer Colleen Deacon and Syracuse Lawyer Steve Williams. Kingson endorsed Sanders when they supported Clinton, he wants a single-payer healthcare system and he has also called for the growth of benefits under Social Security, Kingson's signature issue.
“You shouldn't have members of Congress, too-smart-by-half press, or others saying it's an entitlement," Kingson said. "It’s something we’ve earned. It’s critical, it’s part of the fabric of this society and Sen. Sanders is the person who -more than anyone else- help stop the cuts to Social Security and then took the message that we have to expand this system.”
Although he expressed enthusiasm for Kingson's bid, Sanders did reflect bitterly on the last New York primary, where he lost to Clinton by 16 points. He lambasted the state's decision to split the two votes.
"How come we're having a primary on June 28, especially given the fact that here in New York state, you had a primary that I was involved in six or eight weeks ago?" Sanders asked. "The hope and the prayer is nobody votes! This comes after the primary we had in New York state where 3 million people were ineligible to vote because they chose not to label themselves as Democrats or Republicans, but as Independents."
Sanders said if Kingson won the primary, and later general election, he could work to end the closed primary system in New York.
But Kingson isn’t the only candidate with high-profile endorsements. Senators Gillibrand and Charles Schumer (D-NY) recently appeared in Syracuse on Deacon’s behalf.
The victor in the primary will go onto face incumbent Republican Rep. John Katko this November. New York's 24th congressional district covers all of Onondaga, Cayuga and Wayne counties and part of Oswego County.