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Does Support From California's Nurses Union Give Bernie Sanders An Edge In The Primary?

Ben Bradford/Capital Public Radio

The California Nurses Association rally at the state Capitol on May 12, 2016.

Ben Bradford/Capital Public Radio

With polls showing the Democratic primary race in California is tightening, Bernie Sanders will look for an edge from the state’s most theatrical union – not Actor's Equity – but nurses.

Wearing red T-shirts, holding poster-sized cutouts of the Vermont Senator’s smiling face, nurses marched on the state Capitol this month.

The union has also commissioned a red bus, which touts its support for the candidate on its sides, known as the "Bernie Bus." Members drive it to campaign stops.

The California Nurses Association has become renowned in Sacramento for its flash. The union hounded former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger when he threatened health care cuts, and hired an actress to play a caricature of Meg Whitman during her bid for governor, known as “Queen Meg.”

"They do have a media savvy, don’t they?" says USC political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe.

Bebitch Jeffe says the union played an important and early role in Sanders’ candidacy.

"They gave him legitimacy and credibility as a national candidate," she says. "They are a fairly powerful political group, and this sent a message that this is not some gadfly."

Sanders, in turn, has become the only presidential candidate to endorse a controversial drug pricing ballot initiative, which the Nurses Association supports.

Ben Bradford

Former State Government Reporter

As the State Government Reporter, Ben covered California politics, policy and the interaction between the two. He previously reported on local and state politics, business, energy, and environment for WFAE in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Read Full Bio 

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