Bernie Sanders showed up in New Paltz Friday morning in an effort to funnel some of the energy from his electrifying, but ultimately doomed, Democratic presidential primary campaign to fellow progressive populist and congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout.
About 1,300 crowded into Hasbrouck Park to hear the Vermont senator extol the virtues of the Fordham law professor who earned a national following among progressives with her 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
In his speech, Sanders hit on familiar themes from his primary campaign like wealth inequality, climate change and the pernicious influence of money in politics. Sanders touted Teachout as a like-minded candidate who would bring leadership and progressive values to Congress.
“On the one hand, you have a candidate beholden to Wall Street billionaires,” said Sanders, referring to Teachout’s Republican opponent, John Faso. “On the other hand you have a candidate who is beholden to the grass roots of this community, to the working people of this community.”
Sanders, who drew thunderous applause from a crowd heavy on students from the nearby SUNY campus, made his pitch for Teachout explicit when he responded to cheers for “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” with the line, “That ‘Bernie’ has got to be transferred to ‘Zephyr.’”
Teachout took the podium to deliver a pugnacious speech in which she derided Faso, a former state Assembly minority leader, as a onetime lobbyist for payday lenders and fracking firms in the pocket of wealthy business interests. Teachout contrasted the small contributions (averaging $19) that she said funded her campaign with large infusion of cash given to a pro-Faso Super PAC by billionaire Paul Singer. Teachout also called on supporters to send her to congress to fight for progressive causes like an end to fracking, free tuition at public universities and overturning the loathed-by-liberals Citizens United Supreme Court decision.
“It’s not about me, it’s about us,” Teachout told the crowd, challenging her supporters to reach 70,000 households in door to door campaigning. “We can have person-to-person politics again.”
One prominent Democrat’s name was absent from the day’s rhetoric. Neither Sanders nor Teachout mentioned Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.