With 11 months to go before Washington’s 2020 presidential primary, Bernie Sanders’ campaign is looking to get a head start this weekend, planning more than 200 volunteer-organizing events across the state.
The Saturday gatherings, from Seattle to Spokane, Walla Walla and Bellingham, are part of a national organizing kickoff for Sanders’ 2020 campaign, which says it has more than 1 million volunteers signed up.
The 228 events set for Washington are the fourth-most of any state, behind California, New York and Florida, said Claire Sandberg, national organizing director for Sanders’ 2020 campaign. A total of more than 4,700 events are planned across the country.
Two of those events will be in Grays Harbor. There are:
• Montesano — 2 p.m. at the Montesano Timberland Library.
• Ocean Shores — Noon at the Subway, 887 Chance a la Mer.
“By our assessment it will be the largest distributed day of action ever in a campaign,” Sandberg said.
The Vermont senator attracted tens of thousands to rallies in Washington during his 2016 campaign at venues including Safeco Field and KeyArena. He easily won the state’s Democratic caucuses that year, defeating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who would go on to be the Democratic nominee.
But Sanders faces a changed landscape in Washington as well as nationally. Instead of a single rival, he’s competing with a flock of candidates, including some vying for the same base of progressive voters.
In Washington, Democrats also have decided to abandon the caucus system that favored Sanders four years ago and allocate their presidential delegates through the more inclusive presidential primary, which has been moved from May to early March.
Still, the Sanders campaign is banking that he can win here again.
“Even with changes to the process and more candidates in the field, we are in a very strong position to replicate our success,” Sandberg said. The campaign says it received more than 42,000 donations from Washington in the first quarter of the year.
At the weekend events, which Sandberg said are mostly expected to draw between five and 25 people, volunteers will see a video message broadcast by Sanders and receive training and tools for canvassing their neighborhoods.
No other 2020 candidate has demonstrated anything close to that level of volunteer organization locally, including Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who is running for president with a singular focus on climate change.
Tina Podlodowski, chair of the state Democratic Party, welcomed the Sanders campaign’s local activism.
“I think its terrific,” she said. “They are utilizing their volunteer base and their strength to put roots down. I would encourage other campaigns to do the same.”
Podlodowski noted early voting in Washington’s 2020 presidential primary will start after the Iowa caucuses.
“It’s a very different landscape and it’s a wide-open landscape,” she said. “Voters get to choose in much broader numbers. I think there will be a lot of interest.”
Hoping to spur more candidate attention, Podlodowski has been pushing for the Democratic National Committee to hold a 2020 presidential primary debate in Washington.
She and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan sent a letter to DNC Chair Tom Perez suggesting a debate at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre. The DNC so far has announced debates in Miami in June and Detroit in July.
Podlodowski said Wednesday she personally delivered petitions backing the local debate to the DNC while in Washington, D.C., for meetings. “We’re just going to keep trying,” she said.
Inslee, meanwhile, has been pushing the DNC to hold a debate focused exclusively on climate change. His call has been taken up by some fellow candidates, including New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro.