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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

Ohio Progressives Worry About Presidential Race As Bernie Sanders Exits

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at an Ohio workers town hall meeting, Sunday, April 14, 2019, in Warren, Ohio. Sanders also spoke in near-by Lordstown.
David Dermer
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at an Ohio workers town hall meeting, Sunday, April 14, 2019, in Warren, Ohio. Sanders also spoke in near-by Lordstown.

The presidential race has crystallized to a contest between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, after Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) ended his bid Wednesday. 

In his  farewell statement, the Vermont senator insisted the current COVID-19 crisis underscores his argument for universal health care untethered to a person’s job.

Amy Harkins, a progressive organizer in Columbus, says she thought that might've nudged voters toward Sanders.

“That was my hope I guess, people were going to connect the dots on health insurance being tied to employment is not sustainable when employment is so at the whim of what’s happening in the world," Harkins said.

Harkins says voting is just one way to be active politically, and she’d rather work under a Biden than a Trump administration.

"I'll be voting for Biden,” she says of the general election. “I won't be happy about it, but I will be voting for Biden. I think Bernie supporters as a whole—I look at this as kind of extinguishing the energy around the election a bit."

Harkins worries how that might change the electoral calculus in November. She says lower turnout could hurt many important races further down the ballot races.

On Tuesday, a day before Sanders dropped out, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) announced his support of Biden's campaign.

"As we face both a public health crisis and an economy in turmoil, we need a steady hand more than ever," Brown wrote in a statement. "Joe Biden has the experience, the tenacity, and the empathy to lead in a crisis, and the hope to bring us together, and steer us toward brighter days ahead."

The Ohio Republican Party released its own statement dismissing the Democratic Party’s candidate.

“Joe Biden has become a polarizing figure in his own party, and Bernie Sanders’s supporters will be looking elsewhere when they vote for President,” wrote party chair Jane Timken.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden’s campaign shared a lengthy statement praising Bernie Sanders as “a powerful voice for a fairer and more just America.” Biden committed to addressing many of the issues Sanders has championed—climate change, universal health care, income inequality, and student debt—even if he didn’t sign on to Sanders’ preferred approach.

Sanders will stay on the ballot in states that have yet to cast votes in the primary, including in Ohio's ongoing primary. He hopes to use those delegates to influence the party during the convention.

Harkins says she hopes the Biden camp will listen but notes, “We’ve been Berned before.”

In his statement, Biden tried to extend an olive branch to skeptical Sanders’ supporters.

“I see you, I hear you, and I understand the urgency of what it is we have to get done in this country," Biden wrote. “I hope you will join us. You are more than welcome. You’re needed.”

Absentee voting in Ohio's election continues until April 28.

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Nick Evans