Sanders in Gettysburg: Let the people's voices prevail

Greg Gross

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders drove home the importance of winning Pennsylvania's primary during a one-on-one interview before he took the stage at Gettysburg College on Friday.

“We need the delegates," the Vermont senator told The York Dispatch during an interview. “We have a path toward victory. It's a narrow path. But it means accumulating as many delegates as we can.”

Sanders trails former U.S. senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton in the delegate count. As of Friday, he had 1,191 delegates, 38 of which are superdelegates, to Clinton's 1,930, 502 of which are superdelegates. A candidate needs 2,383 to secure the Democratic nomination.

Sanders has a lot of ground to make up if he wants to secure the nomination for president.

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“I think and hope that some of those delegates will be changing their mind as they appreciate that in poll after poll we do a lot better against Donald Trump than does Hillary Clinton, and not just Trump but also other Republican candidates as well,” he said.

The Keystone State has 210 delegates, 127 of which will be elected, up for grabs in Tuesday's primary.

Delegates: The protracted 2016 race for the White House has, in both parties, shown flaws in the national primary system, particularly in how the candidates pickup coveted delegates. Sanders said he'd like to see the system changed, especially when it comes to superdelegates, who are Democratic Party elite insiders.

"I think there are just too many superdelegates," he said. “Many of them came on board for Secretary Clinton's campaign before anyone else anybody else was running as a matter of fact, and I think that is just wrong.  I think essentially what you want is to have a process in which the voices of the people prevail and not just the people who are part of the political establishment.”

Sanders, who was a longtime Independent before joining the Democratic Party last year, has been seen as the anti-establishment candidate on the Democratic ticket.

Bill Clinton campaigns in Harrisburg for Hillary

Money in politics: That has meant going up against Clinton's and the party's well-established funding sources.

Sanders, on the other hand, has been an outspoken proponent of campaign finance reform and has relied mainly on small amount donations from supporters. His campaign has said the average donation amounted to $27.

“We have taken on almost the entire Democratic machine in state after state after state," he said, noting his primary wins. “What I think all of that tells you is that, in most instances, the establishment politicians are not really representing where the people, at least people in the Democratic Party, are. They (politicians) are out of touch, too conservative, too tied into big money, and people perceive that, and they (the people) want real change."

Bernie Sanders' supporters cheer before the Future to Believe In Town Hall meeting Friday, April 22, 2016, at  Wright Hauser Athletic Complex in Gettysburg. Amanda J. Cain photo

The rally: Shippensburg University students Lillie Hawkins and Alexa DeFranseco made the roughly hourlong drive to Gettysburg to see the candidate they're hoping to vote for in the November election.

The pair said they were drawn to Sanders because of his history of being involved in human rights.

“He's been an advocate most of his career,” said DeFranseco, who ditched a class to make it to the town hall-style meeting with the Democratic candidate.

Maddox Holtke, 5, of Pottsville, holds up his Bernie sign in anticipation for the Future to Believe In Town Hall meeting Friday, April 22, 2016, at  Wright Hauser Athletic Complex in Gettysburg. Amanda J. Cain photo

Sanders' appearance at the Bream Wright Hauser Athletic Complex at Gettysburg College on Friday came a few days ahead of Pennsylvania's primary. He was joined by U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.

The crowd in the gymnasium at Gettysburg College passed the time waiting for Sanders to go on stage by doing the wave and chanting "Ber-nie" as songs such as Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" blared from the speakers.

“It's exciting,” Hawkins said of the jovial atmosphere.

The roughly 2,000 people who were "Feelin' the Bern" and filed into the gymnasium to hear Sanders speech was a mix of college students and younger people, with quite a few older folks mixed in.

One older man was wearing a T-shirt that read “Seniors feel the Bern."

Sanders spoke heavily about veterans, getting corporate special interest groups' money out of politics and increasing higher education opportunities.

"We have a moral obligation to provide the resources they need," he said of taking care of veterans.

Bill Clinton campaigns in Harrisburg for Hillary

— Reach Greg Gross at