Sanders to kick off 2016 bid from Clinton's left

2015-05-26 20:58
(Jacquelyn Martin, AP)

(Jacquelyn Martin, AP)

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Burlington - Bernie Sanders, the self-described "democratic socialist" senator from Vermont, aims to jumpstart his challenge to Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination with a kickoff event on Tuesday.

The 73-year-old Sanders is trying to ignite a grassroots fire among left-leaning Democrats wary of Clinton - a group that pined for months for Senator Elizabeth Warren to get in to race.

While Warren remains committed to the Senate, repeatedly saying she won't run for the White House, Sanders is laying out an agenda in step with the party's progressive wing and Warren's platform - reining in Wall Street banks, tackling student debt and creating a government-financed infrastructure jobs programme.

Sanders has already declared himself a candidate. His kickoff event - complete with free ice cream from Vermont's own Ben & Jerry's - is in Burlington, the city where he won his first election in 1981 by beating a longtime incumbent Democrat by just 10 votes to become mayor.

"Hillary Clinton is a candidate. I am a candidate," Sanders said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I suspect there will be other candidates. The people in this country will make their choice."

Clinton is in a commanding position by any measure, far in front of both Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, who is widely expected to get into the race later this week.

Yet Sanders' supporters in neighbouring New Hampshire say his local ties and longstanding practice of holding town hall meetings and people-to-people campaigning will serve him well in the key northeastern state that holds the first presidential primary contest every four years.

Sanders, an independent in the Senate who caucuses with the Democrats, has raised more than $4m since announcing in late April that he would seek the party's nomination. He suggested in the interview that raising $50m for the primaries was a possibility. "That would be a goal," he said.

Whether Sanders can tap into the party's left wing and influence Clinton's policy agenda remains unclear. But he has been at the forefront of liberal causes as Clinton has seemed to be tacking to the left.

Clinton regularly refers to how the US economy hurts American workers - rhetoric that offers comparisons to Warren's frequent description of the economic system being "rigged" against middle-class families.

Sanders joined with Warren to drive opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade proposal backed by President Barack Obama, arguing it would ship jobs overseas. Clinton has avoided taking a specific position on the trade deal.

Read more on:    hillary clinton  |  us

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