Political Notebook

Bernie Sanders backers go it alone on debate watching

Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders during a speech last month at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.
Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders during a speech last month at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. AP

Democrats gathered at two locations Tuesday night to watch the Democratic presidential candidates’ first debate. But while those gatherings were open to Democrats supporting any of the five presidential hopefuls on the stage, a faction of local Bernie Sanders supporters went it alone.

The rebel Sanders supporters hosted a “We Want Bernie Debate Watch Party” at the California Nurses Association offices on N. Fresno St. in Fresno. Democrats held parties at the Fresno County Democratic Party headquarters in downtown Fresno and at Fresno State University. The Fresno State debate watching party was hosted by the College Democrats on campus.

Michael Evans, chair of the Fresno County Democratic Party, expected supporters of both Sanders, a Vermont senator, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, the presumptive front runner and highest-polling candidate, at the Democratic Party headquarters debate-watching party. A Sanders faction separate from those hosting the “We Want Bernie” party directed supporters to the Democratic Party headquarters event.

As for the breakaway Sanders debate watching party, it was not put on by the Sanders campaign. The hosts were the California Nurses Association and the Progressive Democrats of America.

Five Democratic Party hopefuls took part in the debate, which was held in Las Vegas. Front and center was be Clinton because she is the highest-poling candidate.

On one side of Clinton was Sanders. On the other side was former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. Beyond them on each side were former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who have the lowest polling numbers.

Evans said he expected most attendees to be either Clinton or Sanders supporters. He said he has yet to come across any local supporters of O’Malley, Webb or Chaffee. Evans said even a recent arrival to the area who used to work for O’Malley is supporting Clinton.

Watching the debates

Fresno County Democratic Party headquarters, 1035 U St., Fresno CA, 5 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

We Want Bernie Debate Watch Party, California Nurses Association offices at 5477 N. Fresno St., Fresno, 5:30 p.m.-8 p.m.

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