Bernie Sanders, traipsing across far-flung regions of California as he seeks a comeback victory here next week, swatted at likely Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for minimizing the state’s water shortage and the effects of climate change.
“The people of California perceive that there was a drought here, and Donald has come to tell you that you’re wrong,” Sanders said. “You thought there was a drought, but Donald, who has studied this issue intensely for decades, has reached the conclusion there is no drought.”
Speaking to a crowd of more than 9,000 on the campus of UC Davis, Sanders sounded familiar themes about income inequality, broken criminal justice and campaign finance systems, the predatory nature of student loans and the need for universal health care and expanded Social Security.
“We have built jails, not colleges,” he said. “It’s time to reverse that trend.”
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At a Friday rally in Fresno, Trump declared, “There is no drought.” Part of the reason for the lack of water, particularly in the Central Valley, he said, is the state prioritizing the needs of the Delta smelt over farmers.
Sanders, continuing with his playful knock on Trump as “one of the great meteorologists in the world,” noted that the New York businessman has previously said that climate change is a hoax.
“What the scientists ... tell us is if we do not get our act together in a very short period of time, if we do not boldly transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy, the current problems will become much, much worse,” Sanders said.
Sanders has taken steps in recent weeks to soften his blows against Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, though not eliminate them entirely, continuing to criticize the sources of her contributions.
Polls show the race here between Sanders and Clinton as a dead heat, even as Clinton directs much of her energy at Trump, who spoke Wednesday in Sacramento.
Earlier in Spreckels, the old Monterey County company town known for its sugar beet production, Sanders reiterated his stance against hydraulic fracturing – a controversial process of extracting natural gas by directing a high-pressure water mixture at the earth.
Sanders took aim at Clinton for merely backing fracking regulations rather than calling for an all-out nationwide ban, which he supports.
“Secretary Clinton in one way or another wants to quote-unquote ‘regulate’ fracking. I think it is too late for regulating,” Sanders said. “I think fracking has got to be banned in America.”
The fracking ban provided yet another opening for Sanders to tie his insurgent campaign to a policy issue with deep resonance in California, where he’s making a late push to win Tuesday’s primary election. Repeating the line in Davis on Wednesday night earned Sanders his biggest cheer from the crowd.
Monterey voters this fall will weigh a countywide ban on fracking in new oil drilling. Sanders used previous stops in California to endorse a statewide ballot initiative imposing price controls on state drug purchases as well as a separate November measure seeking to legalize recreational marijuana.
Later, at a stop in Palo Alto, Sanders made an appeal to Asian Americans. He contrasted his open-armed approach to immigrants and fighting prejudice with Republican stances against Muslims.
“I would hope that we would have learned the lesson that bigotry is unacceptable in the United States,” Sanders told the crowd there.
Sanders’ Northern California stops follow days of frantic zig-zagging across the state, including rallies in towns that are usually considered flyover country here, shunned in favor of wealthy Bay Area and Los Angeles communities where candidates hold fundraisers. He’s scheduled to rally supporters Thursday in Modesto and Chico.
This story originally appeared on SacBee.com.