Photo of Bernie Sanders
Photo by Todd Cooper

Bern After Reading

Sen. Bernie Sanders is still the presidential candidate of choice for many in Eugene-Springfield 

Addressing an audience of about 50 people at the University of Oregon’s EMU Amphitheater, congressional candidate Doyle Canning tells a story about Bernie Sanders and a Halloween costume she wore as a child in the late 1980s. 

“When I was a little girl, and I was living on food stamps with my mom at my grandmother’s house in New Hampshire, I had an idea for a Halloween costume,” she said at the event. 

She wanted to dress up as a cardboard box taxicab, but she needed to add a bumper sticker to it. So she put on a “Bernie for Burlington” campaign sticker.  

Canning told this story at a rally event the day before Super Tuesday. At the rally, the UO’s Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation, Sunrise Movement Eugene and UO Students for Bernie all endorsed the Vermont senator in his pursuit for the White House. 

That’s not all of the local support Sanders has received, though. Volunteers from Eugene have gone on a “Bernie Journey” to help the presidential hopeful’s campaign to get the Democratic Party nomination, and in 2019 more people in Eugene have donated to him than any other candidate. 

Canning says she knew about Sanders because growing up in the New England media market she saw a number of advertisements for his mayoral campaign in Burlington, Vermont. Plus, her mother was a Sanders supporter. 

“As a little girl, I knew Bernie Sanders was fighting for me,” she tells Eugene Weekly after the event.  

Canning says she was 20 years old when her mother lost her job and died from a chronic condition because she didn’t have access to health care.  

“These issues are personal, and Bernie has been the one standing for Medicare for All since I was a child,” she says. “That consistency is what we need to defeat Donald Trump.” 

Sanders’ popularity in Lane County isn’t new. In the 2016 primary, he defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Lane County, receiving 60 percent of the vote. 

Right now, he’s the most popular candidate in Eugene and Springfield based on his financial support from 2019. In Eugene alone, Sanders has the most campaign contributions with $1.5 million donated, according to year-end data by the Federal Election Commission. Sanders even received more money than other presidential candidates in Springfield.

The candidate in second place is Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who ended her campaign Thursday, March 5, with about $750,000. Trump has received one of the lowest amounts among the candidates still running, with $74,000 from Eugene residents. Sanders has the most individual donations with 2,754 contributions. 

By zip code, Warren edges out Sanders in many areas. She received slightly more money in 97402, west Eugene; 97403, east campus, Laurel Hill and Glenwood; and 97405, south Eugene. But Sanders received more money from donors in the 97401 area code, the Eugene metro area, and 97404 area code, north Eugene.  

One of Sanders’ local donors is James Barber of Springfield, who says he took out a zero percent interest credit card and donated the maximum amount allowed in a primary — $2,800 — during 2019. 

He’s a part of Lane County for Bernie Sanders and Our Revolution Lane County. The latter isn’t explicitly for Sanders. It’s a nonprofit that emerged after the 2016 election with the mission to engage, educate and activate communities and individuals to promote social, environmental, economic and racial justice, according to its bylaws. 

“Rather than become Lane County for Bernie Sanders again, we wanted to keep our identity because we’re a nonprofit,” he says. “Our focus isn’t electing Bernie. Our focus is on the issues that his campaign ran on.”

Both groups meet at Whirled Pies and volunteers do overlap, he says. Since the official Sanders campaign hasn’t moved into Eugene yet, the Lane County for Bernie Sanders group is doing phone canvassing to voters in other states and some are participating in a “Bernie Journey.” 

The local grassroots campaign for Sanders has focused on other states because Barber says Oregon’s primary is so late compared to the rest of the U.S. If Sanders wins the earlier primary states, other out-of-state volunteers could support the local group.  

The Sanders official campaign doesn’t pay the volunteers travel stipends to take a Bernie Journey, but there is a campaign webpage that helps other volunteers organize carpooling, share housing and other travel accommodations. 

Barber and local individuals have traveled to states with earlier primary election dates. His trip took him to Iowa, Nevada and California — states that Sanders won the majority of delegates from. 

The Lane County for Bernie Sanders group also has volunteers who table for the candidate at Lane Community College, where they’ve registered voters and are setting up a college organization with nearly 400 students interested in joining, Barber says. 

Avery Temple, 23, who spoke at the March 2 rally at the UO, tells EW that she took a term off to work as a campus organizer at Iowa State University in Ames. At the UO, she’s working to facilitate the campaign of UO Students for Bernie, as well as associated with Canning’s campaign and Sunrise Eugene. 

While in Iowa, she says she attended rallies, and that hearing Cornel West melted her heart and that Sanders’ speech was electrifying. She says she also witnessed how the caucus system opened her eyes to voter suppression there. 

Though Temple says she’s worked for environmental justice advocacy and community activism, she says she’s never seen so much energy in a campaign before like what she saw in Iowa. 

“There is this absolute insane energy to the Bernie Sanders campaign that I have never seen in my whole life,” she says. “I saw this crazy, powerful unstoppable force of the Bernie Sanders movement and that he’s able to provide people with this hope that we haven’t had for a long time in the U.S.” 

She adds that she talked with a lot of young people who were enthusiastic about change. 

Temple voted for Sanders in 2016, but this election cycle she says she’s more active in his campaign because she’s filled with a rage about wealth inequality. 

“It has made me want to dedicate all of my time and energy into what we need right now,” she says, “which is elected leaders who actually represent the people.”

Bernie supporters are sometimes called “Bernie Bros,” a term that conjures an image of young white males. But as a young Latina, Temple doesn’t fit that stereotype. 

“I’m a young, working class person of color who was raised in poverty in central Florida,” she says. “Everyone I know who’s for Bernie is in some way disenfranchised by the system. We are people who are scrappy, who are resourceful, who are creative and who are ready to innovate and find new ideas to make sure there is real equality in the U.S.”