Nevadans of all ages came together at the Nugget Casino Resort on Friday, Feb. 19 to show their support for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Despite the chilly weather and a line that stretched through the parking lot, the crowd was in high spirits, with cheers so loud they could be heard from inside the building.
“I’m here because Bernie’s gonna change our future,” said Cassie Tommerdahl, 22, who could be seen running along the line of people giving out high-fives and starting chants. “We’re gonna have a fantastic country.”
Many attendees at the rally were noticeably younger compared to the crowds for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, who have both visited Reno in the past six weeks. Sanders is known for consistently polling well with young voters, who say they are tired of traditional politics. Mike Sayman, a 19-year-old product manager for Facebook and one of the many volunteers for the Sanders campaign who attended the rally, is one such voter.
“A lot of my friends back at home felt [their voices didn’t matter]. We felt like we didn’t have a voice, no matter who we picked, whether it was Obama, or Hillary, or Trump, it’s like the same thing,” said Sayman. “He [Sanders] has this campaign of knowledge and he doesn’t depend on voters to be ignorant.”
Sayman is the child of Peruvian immigrants and is the first generation of his family to be born an American citizen. He feels frustrated over the division in the country regarding immigration and Trump’s now infamous suggestion of building a wall between the United States and Mexico.
“What I really think that Bernie stands for in terms of the Hispanic community, especially seeing it so big here in Nevada, is helping those people come out of the shadows and have opportunity and not have their families split up,” Sayman said.
Washoe County has one of the largest populations of Latinos in Nevada, but few are politically active. Federico Chavez, another advocate for Sanders, dedicates his time to lecturing across the U.S. about the importance of the Latino vote to encourage more Latinos to participate.
“I’m focused on Latino outreach,” Chavez said. “I think if the Latinos make a significant difference in Bernie winning the election, then that will give even more power to the Latinos throughout the nation.” Chavez is a nephew of social rights activist and labor leader Cesar Chavez.
Along with comprehensive immigration reform, Chavez also backed Sander’s push for free college education. Young Latinos who go to his lectures tell him that being able to afford higher education is their main concern. Chavez also has first hand experience watching his daughter struggle with her $40,000 debt from medical school.
“[She and her husband] actually had to live in our basement,” Chavez said. “They had a little baby and they couldn’t afford a house. With the debt that she had, every time she tried to apply they said she carried too much debt.”
Chavez was not the only concerned parent present for Friday’s rally. Larry Swick, 69, has children he wishes he could send to college for free like when he went to school. He was greatly impressed by the turnout of young people interested in making a difference and investing in their futures.
“I think he [Sanders] is the new way of looking at politics,” Swick said. Politicians should be here for the people, not for corporations or rich people.”
The Democratic caucus was held in Nevada on Saturday, Feb. 20; Clinton won the caucus with 52.5% of the vote. Donald Trump will visit Reno the day of the Republican caucus on Tuesday, Feb. 23.