Bernie Sanders Visits Akron on eve of Ohio Primaries

Former Ohio State Senator Nina Tuner welcomes Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to the stage of the Civic Theater in Akron Ohio on Monday March 14, 2016.

Matt Poe

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders held a rally at the Akron Civic Theatre Monday afternoon on the final day before the Ohio primary election on March 15. Large crowds gathered outside the historical venue, a mix of young and old alike waiting for entrance into the theater to get a glimpse at the Vermont Senator.

Sanders took the stage around 1:30 and spoke to the nearly-sold out crowd for roughly an hour about a wide range of issues that his campaign has become known for, including healthcare reform and campaign finance.

“We need to tell the billionaire class that they can’t have it all and it’s time to create and economy that works for all of us,” Sanders said.

Sanders also discussed several issues that hit close to home for natives of Akron and Northeast Ohio as a whole: heroin and manufacturing. A historical manufacturing city, Akron has seen a major loss in manufacturing jobs and has subsequently seen population loss increase from 2.7 to 8.3 percent between the 2000 and 2010 census.

“We’ve got to have trade agreements that work for workers, not just CEO’s,” Sanders said.

The rambunctious crowd become somber as Sanders addressed the heroin epidemic that has become rampant throughout Ohio, resulting in 2,482 Ohio residents succumbing to an unintentional drug overdose in 2014, according to Heroin related deaths accounted for 1,177 of those overdoses.

“It’s time we treat substance abuse as a mental health issue, not a criminal issue,” Sanders said to thunderous applause.

Finally, Sanders touched on the Republican presidential candidates and specifically that of GOP frontrunner, Donald Trump, who was adamant about President Obama making public his birth certificate. Sanders, the son of an immigrant like Obama, stated that there is a reason Trump hasn’t asked him to produce his birth certificate.

“My father was born in Poland but no one asks me about my birth certificate and that may have something to do with the color of my skin,” Sanders said.

Sanders concluded his speech with what is seemingly becoming a common slogan for his campaign and is more than likely another reference to Trump.

“Love always trumps hatred,” he said as he thanked the crowd.

While Sanders has gained strong support from millennials particularly for his plans to make college tuition free, he has also resonated with older generations as well. Dennis McCartney, 63, said the compassion shown by Sanders made a difference for him in becoming active in politics.

“I was never involved in politics until Bernie came around,” McCartney said. “I saw him on this program called ‘Brunch with Bernie’ about eight or nine years ago and I realized he’s a special guy because he’s not talking about money, he’s talking about issues to plain people.”

Gary Stewart, a supporter at the rally, held his Bernie sign out for cars to see and honk at as they drove past the rally. Like McCartney, Monday’s rally wasn’t the first Sanders event that Stewart has been a part of.

“After this, I’ll be in Akron knocking on doors and making phone calls,” Stewart said. Sanders has been on record saying that climate change is the greatest threat facing our planet, a belief shared by Stewart.

“As a world, it’s our biggest threat,” Stewart said. “It’s everywhere and problems that people face in these other countries, having to relocate because of climate effecting food shortages. It affects everybody.”

Sanders seeks to close the gap on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and take a major win in Ohio. 160 delegates are up for grabs in the winner-take-all primary. In Portage County, primary polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. for Tuesday’s election.