After a long first night on the convention floor, the Kansas state delegates got a special boost of energy Tuesday morning when Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped by for a visit.
“There’s no reason why Democrats can’t be successful in Kansas,” Sanders said as part of a five-minute speech about turning out to vote for the party. “We have to get people involved in the political process.”
The visit came after Sanders delegates from across the country caused an uproar at his speeches Tuesday when he asked them to vote for Hillary Clinton come November.
Sanders spoke about holding elected officials accountable for following through on their campaign promises. He told the story of his first run for mayor of Burlington, Vermont, in 1981 and his re-election in 1983, which saw double the voter turnout.
“Because we kept our promises and we stood up for people who suddenly saw government working for them,” Sanders said.
He told the delegates he had a great time during his last visit to Kansas, where he famously stopped in Lawrence to get a $7 haircut, joking he’d come back the next time he needed one.
In all seriousness, he said, it’s hard to be a Democrat in a state like Kansas, where all statewide elected positions are held by Republicans.
“You’re looking to the future, you’re fighting the fight,” he said. “You need support from the national Democrats, and I’ll do my best to make sure you have that support.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf followed Sanders, welcoming the delegates to Philadelphia and emphasizing the need to get Kansas “back on the forefront of progressive ideas.” He told delegates to push for Democratic candidates in state and local elections when they get home.
Everything the party wants to do – like higher minimum wage, single-payer health care, non-discrimination legislation – he said, depends on voting for the Democratic nominee in November.
“People one by one are realizing, yeah, we have disagreements,” Wolf told The Eagle. “That’s what a good, open Democratic party is about, but when we get to November, it’s going to be Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.”
Damien Gilbert, a Wichita native who now lives in Lawrence, said he appreciates Sanders’ progressive stance on many issues, even though he’s pledged to Clinton.
“I was happy to see him today and I cheered for him loudly last night,” he said.
Justin Kim of Wichita said after the speeches that it felt incredible to have been surrounded by “towering figures of the party.” He said he thinks the visit and the specific request from Sanders to the Kansas delegates to support the party may persuade some who were uneasy Monday.
“There’s so much more between us that’s similar than dissimilar,” Kim said. “I think we’re really going to kind of fall in line together.”