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On The Heels Of Nevada Victory, Sanders Campaign Pushes Into Southern Utah

A Bernie Sanders campaign table is piled with stickers, signs, buttons and pens. A campaign organizing event takes place in the background
David Fuchs / KUER
The Bernie Sanders campaign held two “barn storm” events in Southern Utah on Saturday as the Vermont senator won the Nevada caucus. The events were held in Cedar City and St. George, pictured above.";s:

ST. GEORGE — As the Nevada caucus results were being tallied in nearby Las Vegas, the Bernie Sanders campaign was already on the ground in Southern Utah’s most populous city.

In this conservative corner of Utah, over 50 people attended a “Barnstorm for Bernie” organizing meet-up here on Saturday night. 

It’s part of the campaign’s focus on turning out the vote across all of Utah ahead of the state’s first-ever primary on March 3. And that includes the more conservative areas, where people might feel nervous about publicly supporting a candidate like Sanders.

Rose Asaf, a Utah regional director for the Sanders campaign, addressed that concern at Saturday’s event.

“You don’t know how many people who are hiding out here who are afraid to come out as a progressive — as a Bernie Sanders supporter — especially in a red state like Utah,” she told the audience. “But look around the room, these are the other people in St. George who have your back.”

In 2016 Sanders won Utah’s Democratic caucuses with an overwhelming 60-point margin over Hillary Clinton. But this year, with the state’s Democrats switching to a primary for the first time, campaign officials are expecting higher turnout and saying it could be anyone’s game.

That’s why the Sanders campaign is reaching out beyond the Wasatch Front, said Utah state coordinator Jodi Clemens. 

“Even if it is the reddest county, we’re still organizing there,” she said. “We’re still making sure that we have our volunteers out talking to the people that they know about why they’re supporting Bernie Sanders.”

One of St. George’s most vocal Sanders volunteers is BreEle Baker. Originally from West Valley, Baker moved to Southern Utah from California with her husband in 2018. The two have been organizing weekly campaign actions in St. George for nearly a year.

She said she was pleased with the turnout at Saturday’s event, which also featured speeches from Black Lives Matter Utah founder Lex Scott and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zachary Moses.

“Having 50 people show up — most of whom I haven’t seen at other Bernie events — is really encouraging,” she said. “We need new faces. We’ve been seeing the same ones over and over for months now.”

Baker said she was pleased by the turnout at Saturday’s barnstorm, — not only because of the total number of attendees, but also because there so many unfamiliar faces in the room.

One of those new faces was St. George resident Karina Geranios. The 23-year-old nursing student has a daughter with special needs. She said she’s a fan of Sanders’ healthcare policies and has quietly supported him for years. But with Super Tuesday fast approaching, she’s starting to speak up.

“I’m sick of being shy,” she said. “I want to build a coalition with people, and I want to no longer feel like I’m silent.”

David is a reporter and producer working on Sent Away, an investigative podcast series from KUER, The Salt Lake Tribune and APM Reports.
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