BY TRONE DOWD
Though most New York Democrats have backed the state’s former senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton, for president, one Queens elected is going another way.
State Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-Far Rockaway) announced his support for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) last week. In an interview with the Queens Tribune, Sanders’ spoke on his reasons for supporting the 74-year-old presidential candidate, citing his platform as one that gels perfectly with the concerns of the people of Southeast Queens as well as minorities across the entire country.
“I’m constantly keeping my ear to the ground,” Sanders, who is also running for Congress against U.S. Rep. Greg Meeks (D-Jamaica), said. “Where are the people in my district, Where do they stand on different issues? Having heard from numerous people in my district, the overwhelming consensus was that they wanted Bernie.”
Sanders said that the decision was made among him and his staff after taking a look at some of the issues that plague Southeast Queens, including predatory lending, foreclosures, unemployment, war and racism. Sanders also stated that the candidates grassroots background also played a great role in his decision.
“We had a conversation, and we looked at the records of both candidates, and based on the record and everything that we came up with, we decided that Bernie Sanders makes the most sense for this district.”
The endorsement is a break away from the almost expected support for Clinton in the Southeast Queens community. Sanders said that while he respects Clinton, he believes that Southeast Queens needs someone tougher on the financial side of the country and as a result, the district.
Sanders said that while Hillary has been forced to be more progressive during her 2016 bid, Bernie has a long history of supporting the issues that currently impact Southeast Queens and the black community across the country.
He will also be working across the country to help Sanders on his campaign leading up to the Democratic primaries in April.
“He has asked me to travel with him to different places, to help get his message across and to widen his base. He understands that there are others who really could benefit from his message and while we are happy that many whites have come to his support, this is an American issue. All kinds of people could come [to his side], people of color, women, gays and straight, and he feels that I would be useful in helping him with that message.”
Sanders kicked off his relationship with the Sanders’ campaign starting Tuesday afternoon during the presidential candidate’s visit to The Town Hall in 43rd Street in Manhattan. The candidate asked state Sen. Sanders to introduce him on stage. During the state senator’s speech, he shared a verbal snapshot of the Southeast Queens community, relating it to the many hardships seen by lower and middle class Americans across the country.
“I’m going to tell you about my community,” Sanders said to the full theatre. “Southeast Queens, beautiful place. A place where hard working Americans got together and got their little homes and tried to live a great life. [In] 2008, the market melts down and we lose our shirts in Southeast Queens. We take a hell of a bath, one that we have not recovered from. We lost big time.”
Sanders cited that the financial crisis had severe impacts on minority communities in Southeast Queens and across the nation.
“The black community lost 50 percent of the wealth that it accumulated since the end of slavery in the years of 2008 to 2012. 50 percent. Four hundred years lost in four years. For he Latino community this was the greatest loss of wealth since Christopher Columbus. The greatest loss of Asian wealth since the internment camps, the greatest loss of Native American wealth since the Trail of Tears, the greatest loss of white wealth since the Great Depression.”
Sanders speech was met with applause before bringing out the White House candidate. Sanders called the chance to work with the presidential hopeful “a thing of a lifetime.”
“It’s an amazing period we have in American history, where an elderly man is the voice of young Americans,” Sanders said. “Where an elderly white man is articulating the needs of communities of color better than anybody else, including Ben Carson.”
Reach Trone Dowd at (718) 357-7400 x123, firstname.lastname@example.org or @theloniusly.