Unpredictable AZ Sanders supporters still feel the Bern

Bernie Sanders supporters at a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Gage Skidmore via Creative Commons)

PHOENIX – In 1960, when he was a young boy, Larry Ward became aware of the political world around him. An exciting young president, John F. Kennedy, had just been elected.

Ward said in a recent interview that as time progressed, he increasingly noticed money influencing politics, a less diligent press covering political issues and theatrical, propagandistic campaigning.

Now 65 and a retired physician who lives in Fountain Hills, Ward said he wants to trust his leaders, but he is skeptical about elite politicians.

Ward was one of 163,400 Arizona voters who supported Democrat Sen. Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary election.

Ward said he was “disappointed” when Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton after losing the primary.

“I think he let down an awful lot of people who believed in his positions, not the positions of the Democratic Party,” Ward said.

Now Ward, who describes himself as “unaffiliated” with any party, is considering voting for Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

Sanders supporter deciding between Dems or Green Party

And no, he doesn’t feel he’s throwing his vote away or helping elect Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump by voting for Stein.

“Every election, one party or the other tries to fear mine and say if you don’t vote for us you’ll lose,” Ward said.

“If I didn’t vote, I’d be throwing it away,” he said.

He’s voting his conscience, he said, because Stein’s “social views” align with his “world views”.

The Pew Research Center found in July that 90 percent of the 20 percent of “consistent” Sanders supporters would support Clinton in the general election, but Ward is breaking away from the pack.

Kirk Kading, 45, a former Sanders supporter, said recently he’s still going to vote for Clinton. He’s not deterred by what he views as the entertainment aspect of the current presidential race and the media’s portrayal of it.

“I’m old enough that I remember all the times in the ‘90s with Hillary and I kind of knew what to expect from her,” Kading said.

Marilyn Purvis, chair of the Millennial Multicultural Board for One Community, an Arizona-based organization seeking economic sustainability through allied communities, said she supports the most left-leaning candidate.

Purvis said she decided to vote for Sanders in the primary after hearing his speeches that targeted high tuition rates and poor communities. After Sanders lost the primary and endorsed Clinton, Purvis simply shifted her sights onto Clinton as the next most left-leaning viable candidate.

“I think she’s done an adequate job in adopting those core policies and conditions that we were fighting for,” Purvis said in an interview.

Sanders supporter won’t vote for other candidates

From 8.9 to 7.9 percent of Arizona voters will cast their votes for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, according to election forecasters at the website fivethirtyeight.com. The Pew Research Center reports in a recent general election survey that Johnson had 10 percent of the registered voting population’s preference while Stein only had 4 percent.

Johnson is represented in all 50 states, but is holding steady with around 8 percent of the vote, RealClear Politics reports.

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, reports that Johnson and Stein “seem to be hurting Clinton more than Trump, particularly among the youngest voters.”

Some Sanders supporters, interviewed recently by Cronkite News on the Arizona State University Downtown Phoenix campus, said the Green Party’s policies seemed most aligned with theirs.

Erika Andiola, an immigrant-rights activist and former press secretary for Sanders outreach to Latinx, said she did not know of any particular recruiting efforts by Democrats, Republicans or independents that targeted Sanders supporters.

“I’ve seen all kinds of different reactions – they don’t want to see Trump in the White House,” she said about Sanders supporters.

Sanders supporter may still write in vote

During his immigration speech in Phoenix Trump doubled down on his hardline immigration policies that include building a border wall and deporting all undocumented immigrants.

“Mr. Trump is targeting each and every voter across the state of Arizona, including disaffected Democrats and independents,” said Brian Seitchik, Arizona state director for the Trump campaign, in an email.

Miryam Lipper, a regional spokeswoman for the Clinton campaign, would not go on the record when asked about the campaign’s efforts to recruit Sanders voters in Arizona.

“Let’s put it this way: if the heavens open up and they put Bernie back in the race, I’ll vote for him,” said Ward, the retired physician.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sources in the Public Insight Network informed the reporting in this story through a partnership with the Cronkite PIN Bureau. To send us a story idea or learn more, click here.