The eyes of the nation will be on Northeast Ohio in Tuesday’s primary election for the 11th Congressional District, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders told a crowd of more than 100 supporters Friday in Akron.
The progressive icon came to Beyond Expectations Barber College to support former Ohio Sen. Nina Turner, who is one of 13 Democrats on the ballot.
Sanders said Turner stands out in the field, supporting policies from a $15 minimum wage to Medicare for all Americans.
“If you want members to stand up and fight for working families, Nina is that candidate,” the senator from Vermont said in a brief interview after his speech.
Sanders told the audience that Turner has caught the eye of special interests who fear she will fight for policies they oppose.
“The whole country is looking at the 11th District,” he said. “They are afraid Nina will be a leader in Congress taking them on.”
Turner supported Sanders in his presidential campaigns in 2016 and 2020, becoming co-chair of the 2020 run. He said they share policy goals, which she could boost as a U.S. representative.
“We are talking about the need for members of Congress who are thinking in transformative terms,” he said.
The 11th District runs from Akron in the south to Cleveland and Euclid in the north. Kara Turrentine, Turner’s deputy campaign manager, said Akron accounts for 10% to 12% of the vote, making it key in a race that could be tight.
In a phone interview before Sanders’ appearance, Turner said she was “honored and happy” to have his support.
“The senator and I share the same values,” she said.
Key among those is universal health care, she said.
“That’s a crisis point for so many people,” she said. “We’re glad to see even now there’s a push to expand and improve Medicare.”
The event at Beyond Expectations is part of the Turner campaign’s effort to get out the vote for their candidate, said Turrentine. Other stops are planned from rapper-activist Killer Mike, U.S. Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Cornel West, a political activist and scholar.
Turner said Democrats will need to work hard to retain the House and Senate in 2022. She said focusing on employment, Medicare for all, environmental justice and increasing the minimum wage are issues that will energize support from voters across the U.S.
“[If] we want to keep the Senate and House of Representatives, it’s important that we continue to push those issues,” she said.
As a member of the House, Turner would be a fighter, Sanders said.
“I want people to know Nina is one of the smartest and hardest-working people I know,” he said. “… She understands from the depths of her soul the need for justice, whether it’s economic, social, racial or environmental justice.”
Before his speech, members of the audience said they were excited to have the senator on Turner’s side.
Turner supporter Maria Ferrara said Sanders’ presence demonstrated wide progressive support for her.
“A lot of big guns are coming out for Nina,” Ferrara said.
The Stow resident said Turner has demonstrated her commitment to issues Ferrara supports like Medicare for all and fighting wealth inequality.
“I’m pretty privileged,” Ferrara said. “I’m pretty fortunate.”
Akron resident Parinita Singh said she came to support Turner and watch Sanders.
“I love Bernie,” Singh said. “I like that he has been fighting for equal rights for everybody since the 1970s.”
Singh was also drawn by Turner’s support for universal health care and the cancellation of student debt.
Fran Wilson of Akron said Turner will fully represent the Akron part of the 11th District.
“I have seen Nina show up more for Akron than anyone else,” Wilson said.
Yvette Simpson, CEO of Vermont-based Democracy for America, said Turner knows the people of the district well.
“She’s a bold, progressive leader,” Simpson said. “She’s a fighter for real, everyday people.”
The Republican and Democrat winners of Tuesday’s primary will square off Nov. 2 to replace Marcia Fudge, who resigned the seat to become secretary of the U.S. Housing and Development Department.
The Hill newspaper has called the race a “proxy battle for the Democratic Party establishment and national progressives,” as Turner and Cuyahoga County Council member Shontel Brown accumulate endorsements for their campaigns.
According to Ballotpedia News, Hillary Clinton, the Congressional Black Caucus political action committee and U.S. House Majority Whip James Clyburn have endorsed Brown. Sanders, the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC, and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have endorsed Turner.