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Politics and Policy

Sanders Wins California Primary

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Lake Tahoe Airport doubles as the South Lake Tahoe City Hall.

It'll be days before final tallies are released, but Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is the projected winner of the California Primary. Polling ahead of yesterday's election showed Sanders with a comfortable lead among voters in the Golden State, but that was before more moderate candidates like Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg dropped out of the race and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. So we sent KUNR's Paul Boger across the state line to get a sense of how the shake-up may have affected voters in California. 

EDITOR'S UPDATE: When this story was first produced, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was polling second in California. He has since dropped out of the race after placing third in most of the Super Tuesday states, including California. 

A steady stream of voters trickled in and out of the Lake Tahoe Airport on Tuesday, which doubles as South Lake Tahoe's city hall.

Chris McNeary was one of the voters. Like many others in California, he voted for Sanders.

“He seems like the only real honest candidate on the Democratic ballot,” said McNeary. “He's been consistent with the civil rights movement and with his expansion of 'Medicare for All.' As a health care employee, that's important to me. Also, I just feel like he's been the most consistent with his own policies for as long as I've been following him."

Sanders’ win in California is perhaps his biggest achievement on Super Tuesday. Much like in Nevada, the Vermont Senator's message seems to have resonated with the Latinx community and young people.

Jeff Weir said he voted for him because he felt Sanders' policies are inevitable.

“Well, I think their policies long term are the kind of policies people are gonna embrace, like Medicare for All ideas,” Weir said. “Bernie's probably a little too old for most people's tastes, but he's been out there slugging for 30 years and certainly knows the issues. Fortunately, I'm sure he can give Trump all the gumption he can muster.”

Despite Sanders' victory in delegate-rich California, his chief rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, had a better night overall – scoring wins in a majority of the states participating in Super Tuesday. That may be in part because of the decision by moderate Democrats like Klobuchar and Buttigieg to drop out of the race and endorse Biden.

That's essentially the reason why Chris Kozlowski, a massage therapist from South Lake Tahoe, voted for him. She said voting for Biden is probably for the best.

“I liked Amy Klobuchar and I liked Pete Buttigieg,” Kozlowski said. “So I was a little bit torn, but I appreciated that they dropped out because I think that the party was just too big, and to slim it down, they did the right thing. Hopefully, he'll maybe tap one of them for vice president. Who knows?”

But Democrats weren't the only party voting in yesterday's primary. Republicans, unsurprising, came out strong for the president. There were also a handful of ballot measures up for consideration.

It's what drove Kristyn Lucero of Tahoe City to the polls. As a non-partisan voter, she wishes people would be more engaged in local politics, not just during presidential elections.

“I think that the only way to make a real impact is to focus on your community,” Lucero said. “If everybody focused on their community, I think that it would have the trickle effect that everyone's looking towards the president to have.”

Lucero said it's been difficult to get excited for any of the Democratic candidates this year, and that may present a problem for Democrats in November if the party's potential nominee can't drive undecided voters to the polls.

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