U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders lent Atlanta mayoral hopeful Vincent Fort some of his star power Saturday in a rousing rally that was part sermon for "the 99 percent" and part call to arms to fight back against Washington.
Enthusiasitc Sanders fans — many of them white millennials — crowded into the sanctuary of Saint Philip AME Church to hear the man for whom they packed arenas and outdoor stadiums during his unsuccessful presidential run in 2016.
The throng, more than 2,400 in number, gave Sanders — Hillary Clinton’s rival for last year’s Democratic presidential nomination — and special guest, Atlanta rapper Killer Mike, the rock star treatment with screams and defeaning applause that shook the rafters as the duo entered the room with Fort.
“What this campaign is about is not just electing a progressive mayor,” Sanders said. “This campaign is about bringing forward a political revolution that revitalizes democracy and gives the people the hope and the belief that in this democracy we can have a government of the people, by the people and for the people.”
Fort, no oratory slack himself, kept the crowd on its feet with his message on how he plans to address Atlanta’s gentrification and housing problems, decriminalizing marijuana and solving the issue of income inequality.
“I told Sen. Sanders that Atlanta is No. 1 in income inequality and immobility,” he said. “That a child born at Grady hospital this afternoon has the least chance than any place in this country of moving from poverty into the middle class.”
Sanders’ support is important to Fort. He’s hoping the issues he and Vermont’s independent senator share — free college tuition, criminal justice reform and a respect for worker’s rights— will help Fort capture the young voters who revere Sanders.
A connection to Sanders could also boost Fort’s poll numbers. Fort was in second place in a March Channel 2 Action News poll behind front-runner Mary Norwood, an Atlanta City Council member, with 9 perscent of the vote.
Five months later, he had slipped to sixth place at 6.1 percent of the vote in Channel 2's August follow-up poll. A little more than 17 percent of voters in the August survey, however, said they were undecided or had no opinion, keeping hope alive among struggling campaigns. Thirteen people are competing in the race to succeed Kasim Reed as mayor. The election is set for Nov. 7.
Killer Mike told the crowd that he won’t vote for politicians. His vote, he said, will go to those who challenge the status quo and antagonize rather than capitulate.
Sanders concentrated a great deal of his firepower on Washington and the impact he says it has not only in the halls of Congress and at the White House but the trickle-down to everyday Americans. He said the effort to repeal and replace the health care law is an example of why Americans must stay vigilant and vote.
“In this great country, health care must be a right for all, not a privilege,” he said.
Later he told Fort he would call him to Washington to help the nation understand the importance of health care, especially single-payer policies he believes will help every American.
“Vincent, when the Democrats regain control of the Senate, I’m going to invite you as the mayor of this great city to testify why the people of Atlanta need a Medicare for all, single-payer system,” he said.