Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is hoping to tap the long history of liberalism and progressive politics in Wisconsin as he pushes his campaign into Republican Gov. Scott Walker‘s backyard.
Sanders has booked the downtown Alliant Energy Center with the goal of filling its 10,000 seats to show his bid to snatch the Democratic nomination from front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton isn’t a longshot after all. In a conference call ahead of his speech Wednesday night, Sanders told reporters that 9,500 people have said they expect to attend.
Sanders, a 73-year-old self-described democratic socialist, is trying to appeal to the most liberal Democrats with his message of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, bridging the gap between rich and poor, and raising taxes on the wealthy and Wall Street.
Madison, the state’s reliably liberal capital and home to the University of Wisconsin, has its own White House hopeful in Walker, who is preparing to enter the crowded field of GOP candidates. The governor is expected to make his announcement on or shortly after July 13.
Sanders said in Tuesday’s call with reporters that he was “strongly opposed” to Walker’s agenda.
“We need leadership in this country that stands up for working families, that is prepared to take on the big money interests today that have so much power and so much influence, that we need to strengthen the trade union movement in this country, not break it,” Sanders said. “I suspect that Gov. Walker’s views are very different than that.”
Walker criticized Sanders in a statement issued Wednesday in advance of Sanders’ speech.
“Bernie Sanders is right about one thing: We don’t need another Clinton in the White House,” he said. “On virtually every other issue, however, he stands in stark opposition to most Americans. Wisconsinites have rejected his top-down, government-knows-best approach three times in the last four years.”
Walker’s statement is a reference to his three election victories since 2010. He won election, defeated a recall in 2012 and then won re-election. His victories have helped fuel his all-but-certain run for the White House.
Sanders has built his underdog campaign on blunt talk about the economy. In addition to advocating a $15-an-hour minimum wage and raising taxes on the rich, he also supports a massive government-led jobs program to fix roads and bridges, a single-payer health care system, an expansion of Social Security benefits and debt-free college.
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.