Bernie Sanders campaign event draws hundreds to Tampa, even though it was sans-Bernie

click to enlarge Corbin Trent, a representative from the Bernie Sanders' national organizing staff, started his presentation by asking the crowd to stand up and take two minutes to  introduce themselves to those around them. - KIMBERLY DEFALCO
KIMBERLY DEFALCO
Corbin Trent, a representative from the Bernie Sanders' national organizing staff, started his presentation by asking the crowd to stand up and take two minutes to introduce themselves to those around them.



Tennessean Corbin Trent is getting a crash course on the highways and byways of Florida.

In return, volunteers and grassroots organizers around the state supporting Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders are receiving about 70 minutes of instruction, inspiration  and anecdotal stories from the Sanders' campaign's national organizing staff representative.

Since landing in Miami Dec. 1, Trent  has driven his rented silver Nissan Altima over 450 miles with organizing stops in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando.

On Saturday, the six-foot tall, soft-spoken Trent checked out of the La Quinta Inn and headed to the Tampa Letter Carrier's Union Hall on Cypress Street where he addressed about 200 enthusiastic Sanders' supporters.

Relying on the advice of local organizers, Trent held the official Bernie Sanders' campaign event, called the Tampa Barnstorm, in a centrally-located city to accommodate the dozens of Sanders for President chapters represented.


Organizers and volunteers came from Venice, Longboat Key, Brookesville, St. Petersburg and beyond to sharpen their skills and unify their efforts.

Palm Harbor's Joyce Baldwin, a member of the North Pinellas for Bernie Sanders chapter, is participating in her first-ever campaign at age 57. The Zen Buddhist, who survived breast cancer and suffers from a chronic illness that left her bankrupt several years ago, traveled the distance with her 81-year-old father Ronald to show their support.

"Bernie Sanders is the first politician who says exactly what I believe and I believe him," Baldwin said. "I am worried about the direction our country is going in and we need to turn it around."

Throughout Trent's polite presentation, he offered constructive advice on organizing and coordinating events. Canvassing, phone banking and voter registration drives were the main topics. 

Hillary Clinton, who according to the December 2 Quinnipiac polls, leads the Vermont Senator 60-30 in the 2016 Democratic Presidential Nomination race, was brought up several times, mostly in questions from the crowd.

Comparisons were made of Clinton's recent Tampa appearance at the home of Democrat Alex Sink, where $2,500 donations were solicited from the 300 attendees.

Trent said the average donation to Sanders hovers around $25-$30.

Trent spoke of Sanders' humility and the campaign in general. Sanders, who travels in coach when flying, encourages frugality including "non-fancy hotels."

"We are the only campaign that actually pays its interns," Trent said. 

Unlike other candidates' official campaign events, none of Sanders' events solicit or expect donations.

According to Tampa Bay for Bernie Regional Coordinator Amos Miers, Saturday's event was unique.

Following Trent's presentation, fellow Tampa Bay for Bernie member and website developer Jeff Etter raised his hand and implored the crowd to demonstrate to Trent, just how impassioned and dedicated the region's supporters are. An organic pop-up fundraiser ensued.

Within 12 minutes, over $3,000 was raised with donations ranging from $1 to $500 and promptly handed over to Trent.

Baldwin, who is trying to recover financially from her  breast cancer and suffers from debilitating fibromyalgia as a result  of treatment, said she has "basically no money."

She moved back in with her parents to get back on her feet.

The petite redhead donated a dollar.

click to enlarge Palm Harbor's Joyce Baldwin, who sufferd a bankruptcy as she endured treatment for breast cancer, donated one dollar to the pop-up, organic donation collection. - Kimberly DeFalco
Kimberly DeFalco
Palm Harbor's Joyce Baldwin, who sufferd a bankruptcy as she endured treatment for breast cancer, donated one dollar to the pop-up, organic donation collection.

"The point is it doesn't matter how small it is," Baldwin said. "If everyone just gave a dollar instead of buying a soda, we could make a big difference."

St. Pete's Andrew Hopper, 22, is also participating for the first time in a political campaign.

"I always felt like it didn't matter," Hopper said. "I realized I was deciding my vote by complaining and being complacent."

Hopper, along with friend Julia Meadows, signed up to work phone banks in the upcoming weeks.

"Basically, our intent of all the coordinator chapters is to build a strong network that we can hand over to the national campaign," Miers said. "So far, Tampa Bay for Bernie alone, has over 1,400 members and we're just one chapter. It's growing stronger every day."

By 6 p.m., following his presentation and meeting with supporters, Trent climbed back into his Altima and pointed it north. He had 198 miles to drive to get to Jacksonville, his final Florida stop before heading to the Pacific Northwest, including stops in Portland and northern California.

Though no Bernie Sanders' visit to Florida is currently imminent, Trent said the candidate's schedule should be finalized in the next few weeks and local organizers will be notified of upcoming rallies scheduled for the bay area.




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