As Virginia’s March 1 primary election approaches, a crowd of Bernie Sanders supporters gathered on the night of Feb. 4 to celebrate the opening of the Democratic presidential candidate’s Richmond field office and campaign center.
The office, located at 211-217 W. Grace St., will serve as the base for volunteers and the campaign for the City of Richmond and surrounding counties, according to Peter Clerkin, the State Campaign Director for Bernie 2016.
“The support that we see in the Richmond area is fantastic,” Clerkin said. “The great thing about these events is that we asked folks that come out how many of them are new to politics, and for most people this is the first campaign they have ever worked on.”
Clerkin said the office will also serve as place for volunteers to find resources and for people to learn about the campaign and find out how they can get involved.
“I signed up to volunteer and I want to get more involved; I’ve never volunteered for a political campaign and I’m 55 years old,” said Jimmy Pluvarious, a Richmond resident who came out to show his support and get more involved in the campaign.
“I’m very excited about him, I like everything he stands for right now. The younger people are really excited about Bernie but it’s hard to get people my age excited,” Pluvarious said.
At the opening event, a projector screen surrounded by “Bernie 2016” posters played a loop of past speeches given by Sanders at the front of the room. On the surrounding walls, sheets of papers hung with the words “Why Are You Voting For Bernie?” written at the top, giving attendees the opportunity to tell why they are giving Sanders their support.
Richmond residents of all demographics turned out to show their support and used the event as a chance to sign up for various volunteering opportunities.
“I saw one woman writing on the sign why she was supporting Bernie and she wrote ‘for my grandchildren’ and I thought that was great,” said Robin Freidin, a student at VCU who attended the event. “I think that’s representative of America. I’m really happy to see this kind of turnout, it’s nice to see the faces of the people that have similar views.”
When asked why Friedin had gone out to attend the office opening party, she had one enthusiastic reply: “Our dying support for Bernie.”
Along with Friedin, another VCU student, Anna Webster, sees the trend of Sanders bringing together a variety of demographics, particularly younger voters.
“He’s every man’s candidate,” Webster said. “There’s a really positive energy here. Bernie is all about supporting each other and it’s really nice.”
Both Webster and Friedin signed up to volunteer at future events in support of Sanders’s campaign.
“I want to spread the word of Bernie. Our generation has such a strong voice but we don’t use it,” Freidin said. “They’re predicting more younger voters to turn out than ever, and it needs to be even more. It’s really important to spread that.”
Sanders has pulled support largely from the younger demographics. Entrance polls conducted before the Iowa Caucus revealed a large margin between Sanders and democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. Sanders came out on top of Clinton by 70 points among voters under the age of 29, while Clinton received more votes from 45 and older.
“Another thing we’re really excited about is the level of engagement we receive from VCU students,” Clerkin said. “We find that the Senator’s message really resonates well with younger voters.”
Megan Corsano, Contributing Writer