Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders told throngs of supporters in downtown Denver Monday night that he wants them do more than vote for him in the presidential primary next year.
"I'm here this evening to ask you to work with me to help transform this country and create an economy and government that works for all of us, not just the 1%," a hoarse-sounding Sanders told the boisterous crowd.
In a brisk speech occasionally interrupted with chants of "Bernie! Bernie!" and "Green New Deal," Sanders denounced the political establishment and "the greed and corruption of the corporate elite" in equal measure, taking aim at health insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, the "prison-industrial complex" and the fossil fuel industry.
The 78-year-old U.S. senator from Vermont, who calls himself a democratic socialist, tore into President Donald Trump, calling him "a pathological liar ... who is moving us away from democracy into an authoritarian-type society" and vowed that in the first weeks of his administration he'll "begin the process of undoing the damage that Trump has caused this country."
But he also called on the estimated 10,000 supporters who spilled throughout Denver's Civic Center to "wage with me a political revolution" aimed at taking on corruption across the board.
Sanders vowed to enact the single-payer Medicare-for-all health care plan, raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and put in place the $16 trillion Green New Deal, which he called the most ambitious proposal ever introduced to tackle climate change.
"That’s a decision for the people of Colorado, not me," he told a Colorado media outlet.
"If we do not get our act together and aggressively go forward transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels into clean, renewable energy," he said, "scientists tell us the damage will be irreparable.
"It is expensive — but what is the alternative? We will not, and we cannot, sit back and allow this planet to be destroyed."
Maia Stephenson of Denver said she was on board with Sanders' take on climate change.
"I think he has the exact right approach to it," Stephenson said as she bounced her 3-month-old daughter. "It's expensive, but it's what we need."
"We don't like the establishment telling us who we're supposed to vote for," shouted former state Rep. Joe Salazar, who heads Colorado Rising, a group devoted to curbing fossil fuel extraction, as he introduced Sanders.
State Rep. Emily Sirota, D-Denver, whose husband, David, is Sanders' chief speech writer, railed against corporate greed in a brief turn on the podium before Sanders spoke.
The line snaked down the block for hours in the shadow of the Flat Iron mountains, Super Tuesday caucus goers trickling in at the doors, even after media outlets were reporting that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders had defeated Hillary Clinton in Colorado.
"Hear us loud and clear!" she said several times, only to be drowned out by Sanders fans, who chanted his name as the energy in the crowd swelled.
Sanders won Colorado's non-binding precinct caucuses in 2016 with 59% of the vote to 40% for eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.But he could face steeper odds next year in a more crowded primary field.
He's the fourth Democratic presidential candidate to hold a large rally in Colorado ahead of the state's 2020 presidential primary, following appearances by U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper, who withdrew from the presidential primary in mid-August, kicked off his campaign for the White House in March in the same downtown center filled by Sanders supporters.
Colorado voters will cast ballots along with voters in 14 other states March 3, known as Super Tuesday, in what will be the state's first presidential primary in two decades. For the first time, unaffiliated voters can vote in either major party's primary.
Colorado will conduct its first presidential primaries in decades on Super Tuesday next year, joining at least 12 other states in a scrum that could winnow the sprawling field of 2020 White House hopefuls, Gov. Jared Polis announced today.
An August Emerson Polling survey of Democratic primary voters in Colorado showed Sanders leading Joe Biden 26% to 25% with Warren in third place at 20%, followed by Harris with 13%. None of the other candidates polled above mid-single digits, including Colorado's U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, who had the support of just 1% of voters.
A Colorado spokesman for the Republican National Committee blasted Sanders for his commitment to ban fracking, which the RNC estimates could cost the state more than $30 billion in economic activity.
“There was a time when Democrats would hesitate before embracing fringe ideas like banning fracking or ‘ending’ fossil fuel, but 2020 Democrats are showing those days are over," said RNC spokesman Kyle Kohli in a statement.
Mariah Johnson of Longmont said she looks forward to voting for Sanders in next year's primary and hopes to see a Sanders-Warren ticket.
"I'm done looking to old white guys for the answers," she said, then quickly smiled and added, "Except this one. He's Grandpa Bernie."