Sanders spent more than an hour talking with some 650 people at Shawnee State University about the opiate addiction crisis as well as the need to make tuition free at public colleges, raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, expand Medicare to provide health care to every American, institute criminal justice reform and provide jobs and hope to citizens.
“I am in Trump country because I think the issues you face here in southern Ohio are not any different than in Vermont or California or any other state,” he said.
Trump won 65 percent of the vote in Scioto County.
“I think it’s high time we focus on the most important issues facing our country and do not allow people to divide us up based on the color of our skin, our sexual orientation…We have to be smarter than that,” Sanders said.
Ohio Republican Party Chairwoman Jane Timken said in a written statement: “The only place Bernie Sanders’ socialist sales pitch will be welcomed today is in Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office. Scioto County voters rejected socialized health care and the job-destroying economic policies of Sanders and Brown last year by overwhelmingly electing President (Donald) Trump. With the economy booming and the president keeping his promises, Sanders and Brown are out of touch and out of luck in Scioto County.”
Brown is up for re-election next year.
Portsmouth was the second stop on a three-city tour for Sanders this week. He held a rally in Indianapolis on Monday and was scheduled to hold a town hall in Detroit with long-time U.S. Rep. John Conyers on Tuesday.
Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, a Democrat who served as a Methodist minister in Portsmouth, said while Scioto County voted for Trump, this isn’t Trump country.
“I think it was a temporary relapse,” Strickland said after the Sanders event. “I think that Trump had a message that resonated here, but being the charlatan that he is, it was a hollow message because there is nothing that he told the people who live here that he wanted to do for them that he has actually done. In fact, quite the opposite.”
Democrats need to win back voters in this area by emphasizing issues such as health care, jobs, the environment and education, Strickland said. Coincidentally, Sanders on Tuesday focused on some of those same issues.