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Sanders Shifts Focus To California Primary With Rally In Southern California

Jae C. Hong / AP

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., acknowledges the crowd during a rally on Tuesday, May 17, 2016, in Carson, Calif.

Jae C. Hong / AP

Frank Stoltze | KPCC

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders kicked off his final push to win the California primary Tuesday night with a bold prediction during a rally in Carson.

“I think we are going to win here in California,” Sanders told a crowd of more than 8,000 at the Tennis Stadium inside the StubHub Center.

But Sanders said the only way to victory is with a “huge” turnout of his supporters. “Let this great state show the world that you are prepared to help lead our nation into the political revolution.”

If Sanders does pull off a California victory, it would be an upset: a Field Poll last month showed him trailing Hillary Clinton by six percentage points. The primary is June 7.

The Sanders campaign hopes to marshal resources from around the region. Katherine Sprague of Phoenix intends to spend the next two weeks campaigning for Sanders in Los Angeles. 

"I'm doing a Bernie Journey," she said as she waited for the rally to begin. "We have a whole caravan of Arizona State University students coming. Hopefully, 10 or 20."

Will Kittler spoke through a megaphone to Sanders supporters as they lined up outside the stadium, urging them to volunteer, too.

“We need you to help this revolution come true,” he said.

Sanders' speech came as news arrived that he won the Oregon primary Tuesday. “I am getting to like the West Coast,” Sanders quipped. Clinton, however, won Kentucky in a tight race.

Sanders refused to ease up on Clinton, who holds a near insurmountable lead in delegates.

The self-described Democratic socialist highlighted differences over trade policies and the minimum wage, and took Clinton to task for taking money from people and institutions tied to Wall Street.

“Our job is to take on Wall Street, not take their money,” he said to a roaring crowd. “I am tired of the greed of Wall Street. We need a new moral compass.”

Clinton has said she acts independently of Wall Street.

Sanders also called on party leaders to be more open to his ideas. “I say to the leadership of the Democratic Party, 'Open the doors. Let the people in.'”

Donald Trump was also a target. He chastised the presumptive Republican nominee for wanting to prohibit Muslims from entering the U.S. and for his refusal to rule out the use of nuclear weapons against the Islamic State.

“We will not accept a president who recklessly talks about using nuclear weapons,” Sanders said as the crowd booed at the mention of Trump.

The rally attracted Sanders supporters from around the Southern California. Many tended to be younger.

Sabrina Rios, 30, of Highland Park sported a T-shirt that read: “Vato Loco Bernie Sanders.” Vato loco means crazy dude in Spanish – in a “good way,” Rios said.

“I work full time. I am a single mom. And I can barely make it work,” Rios said of her economic situation. “I’m in a very fragile situation, and one little setback can blow it all up.”

She believes Sanders’ push for a higher federal minimum wage and free college tuition will help.

“I’m looking for support to make my life better, make a better life for my daughter,” she said as her three-year-old girl stood at her side. 

Jaime Ochoa, 28, of Cypress Park also liked Sanders' stand on free tuition.

“People deserve to go to college and not worry about the debt,” she said.

The atmosphere was more optimistic than angry. Nicolas Vasquez played his three-piece drum set as people waited in line. Vasquez, 19, studies music at Fullerton College.

“I knew it would just be a great place to be,” he said. He’ll vote for the first time on June 7, casting his ballot for Sanders.

One hot question among Sanders supporters is whether they will vote for Clinton if she is the party’s nominee in November.

Norbert Chen said Clinton doesn’t compare to Sanders. “He promises real fundamental change in this country,” Chen said.

But the 28-year-old investment advisor from Cerritos said he would reluctantly back Clinton if Sanders falls short. “There is no way I would vote for Trump.”

Sabrina Rios of Laguna Nigel can’t imagine voting for anyone other than Sanders. “He actually cares about income inequality,” she said.

Would she vote for Clinton in November to block a Trump presidency?

“Absolutely not. It's Bernie or Bust.”