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Bernie Sanders Rallies For Boston-Area City Council, School Board Candidates03:49
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Vt. Sen. Bernie Sanders was in Somerville to rally for progressive candidates running for local office.
 (David Becker/AP)
Vt. Sen. Bernie Sanders was in Somerville to rally for progressive candidates running for local office. (David Becker/AP)
This article is more than 1 year old.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders brought what he calls his "political revolution" to the Boston area Monday.

The former 2016 presidential candidate rallied for progressive politicos running for local offices in Cambridge and Somerville.

Sanders came to Somerville as part of his effort to build a nationwide grassroots progressive movement and generate excitement for down-ballot races across the country.

"We need a mass movement of people at the grassroots level who are going to stand up and fight back," Sanders, who is also a former mayor, said Monday. "And that means getting involved, which is what you are doing and those candidates are doing at the local level."

Sanders threw his star power behind a group of local candidates for the board of aldermen, the school board and city council in Cambridge and Somerville who have been endorsed by OUR REVOLUTION. With chapters across the country, the group was formed by supporters of Sanders' presidential campaign in hopes of backing progressives in races nationwide.

Sanders acknowledged these are dispiriting times for his supporters, while offering a reprise of his presidential campaign speech — including a condemnation of growing economic inequality, a push for single-payer health care and free public college for all.

"These ideas exist already in country after country all over the world! We got thousands of kids — American kids — going to Germany now. You know why? Because they can get free college education in Germany," Sanders explained. "Well, we thank you, Germany. But we should be doing it here in the United States of America."

"We need a mass movement of people at the grassroots level who are going to stand up and fight back."

Bernie Sanders

On the other hand, Sanders said local grassroots energy has blocked Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, at least for now. And he pointed to several recent high-profile political victories by progressives, including that of Randall Woodfin, an African-American, who was elected mayor of Birmingham, Alabama.

"And we are seeing that kind of result literally all over this country. Working people, young people running for school board, running for city council, running for state legislature — and they are winning!" Sanders said.

But they are not all winning. According to its website, OUR REVOLUTION has backed 53 candidates so far this year: 35 have lost; 18 have won, including Paul Feeney, who ran Sanders' presidential campaign in Massachusetts. Last week, Feeney was elected to the Massachusetts state Senate to represent the Bristol-Norfolk district. He said Sanders' presence is important to progressives like him.

"To have the senator here today means a lot here in Massachusetts and to the grassroots activists that have been doing the work for so long now," Feeney said.

Not everybody is happy, however. Some 30 local politicians and activists from Cambridge co-signed a letter to the Vermont senator claiming it was wrong for him to step into a nonpartisan city council race with 26 candidates, "most of whom," they say, "are equally progressive." They ask, "how and why does Sanders choose between these candidates?"

State Rep. Marjorie Decker is among those who signed the letter.

"For Sen. Sanders himself to come here, I mean that'd be like Sen. [Elizabeth] Warren going to his town in Vermont and deciding who should be elected to his local town government, or city government," Decker said.

Sanders did not address that complaint during his appearance Monday. But Bob Massie, a progressive candidate for Massachusetts governor, explained it this way:

"Our revolution is a young organization, and it's still figuring out its processes. It's going to have a founding convention," Massie said. "It can be a little unclear right now who to talk to or who is going to be endorsed."

Nina Turner, the national president of Our Revolution, also addressed the issue, telling Politico that Sanders' involvement generates excitement around progressives running for local office.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Bob Massie's last name. We regret the error.

This segment aired on October 23, 2017.

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Anthony Brooks Twitter Senior Political Reporter
Anthony Brooks is WBUR's senior political reporter.

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