BOULDER – Nine thousand people crammed into CU-Boulder's Potts Field Saturday to hear an hour-long speech from Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who touched on topics ranging from gun control to Citizens United to income inequality to immigration.
The 74-year-old independent Vermont senator vowed to implement three months of paid family medical leave and to use an anti-Citizens United litmus test for his Supreme Court nominees during Saturday's campaign event, where a receptive Boulder crowd of an estimated 9,000 largely applauded the self-described "democratic-socialist."
Early in the speech, Sanders, who has taken some criticism for his stance on gun control, said "we have to do something meaningful" on school shootings.
"The American people in large numbers believe that we should improve and expand our background check system," Sanders said, adding that he believes there is "widespread support" to ban semiautomatic assault weapons.
He called them "guns that have no other purpose but to kill people."
Sanders waited at least 30 minutes into his remarks to call out the Koch brothers specifically, but devoted a great deal of time to Citizens United and income inequality in general. He cited his campaign's average donation of $30 as proof of his populist apeal.
"One of the big things that interests me in him is he's not being funded by any huge corporation," supporter Clay Hamilton said. "He's a really grassroots-level guy, who's speaking things that we're feeling in our souls."
Hamilton said he supports Bernie because of his appeal for young people. Though a large number of younger voters attended the rally, they weren't the only ones.
"I think he's a positive alternate candidate," 66-year-old Bill Black, who attended the event, said. "I want to hear what he has to say, and I think it's exciting, what he's doing."
Sanders will debate fellow Democratic contender and front-runner Hillary Clinton on Tuesday. Clinton, who had previously been expected to easily win the nomination, has fallen in the polls in recent weeks – resulting in gains for Sanders and Vice President Joe Biden, who has not yet said whether he will run.
Clinton is backed by 41 percent of likely Democratic primary voters, while Sanders is supported by 23 percent. Biden got 20 percent of the support.
Many voters surveyed in the USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll said they felt the controversy over Clinton's use of a private email server would hurt her in the general election.
(© 2015 KUSA)