Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Monday took on front-runner Hillary Clinton, but also her top surrogate in New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, saying grass roots movements made each politician do the right thing despite a “corrupt” political system dominated by wealthy campaign donors.
In campaigning in Binghamton for the April 19 New York primary, Sanders shot back at Cuomo, who has been criticizing Sanders on gun control and other issues for Clinton, a longtime ally. Sanders has several other upstate stops Monday, ending in Buffalo.
“I want to applaud you for standing up to Gov. Cuomo and demanding that New York state ban fracking,” Sanders said to applause.
Environmentalists in the Southern Tier actively opposed the proposed hydrofracking for natural gas deep in an upstate shale deposit as a threat to drinking water. After more than year of delays and studies, Cuomo eventually continued a ban on the fracking process that shoots chemicals into shale to release the gas.
“What you have done is prove to the world that when you stand up and form a grass-roots movement of environmentalists, public health advocates, working families and religious leaders, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish,” Sanders told the crowd that packed a downtown hockey arena.
Clinton was part of the Obama administration that supported and promoted fracking, which has been a boon to several states and is credited with lowering the cost of fuel.
Sanders also said the credit for legislation passed this month to phase in a $15 minimum wage in New York from $9 should go to workers who demanded it. Cuomo had made a $15 minimum wage his top priority in the state budget adopted April 1, almost a year after he dismissed it as politically unfeasible.
“You made the governor sign a bill establishing the $15 minimum wage,” Sanders said. “That didn’t happen because the governor woke up one day and said, ‘Oh, that’s a good idea. Why didn’t I think of that?’ He did it because he’s a good politician, and that’s fine enough, and he listened to the people who stood up and demanded that.”
Sanders argued the case that his campaign, based on 6 million small donations rather than big Wall Street campaign contributions that fuel the campaigns of Clinton and Cuomo, is a grass-roots “political revolution” needed to save the country from corrupt and rigged political and economic systems.
Last week, Cuomo in a WNYC radio interview criticized Sanders for saying the families of those killed and maimed in the Sandy Hook massacre shouldn’t be able to sue manufacturers of legal guns. Cuomo said that’s the view of former Republican President George W. Bush.
Cuomo declined to comment Monday.