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Sanders talks trade, research funding during Rochester visit

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders fielded questions on issues ranging from trade policy to scientific research during a campaign stop Thursday morning in Rochester.

Supporters gather as Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders campaigns Thursday morning at the International Event Center in Rochester. This is his second visit to Minnesota since announcing his candidacy.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders fielded questions on issues ranging from trade policy to scientific research during a campaign stop Thursday morning in Rochester.

Before a crowd of more than 600 supporters, Sanders answered questions from members of the audience following an hour-long speech. William Morrison, of Rochester, fired off the first question, asking Sanders what his supporters can do to help defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

Sanders said the proposed trade agreement is a continuation of "disastrous trade policy" of the past that led to the loss of thousands of American jobs. He said opponents of the agreement need to get the word out about the damaging impact the trade deal could have on American workers and come up with an alternative deal that "says trade should work for working people in this country and abroad and not just the CEOs of large corporations."

Carleton College neuroscience professor Sarah Meerts asked Sanders what he thinks of funding for scientific research.

"I feel like the future of our country, in terms of science, is in danger," Meerts said. "There aren't jobs, and people both in high school and in college are not entering those fields because there isn't enough funding. How's that fit into your plan?"


Sanders said Republicans have been unwilling to adequately fund the National Institutes of Health, and that needs to change.

"Investing in science pays for itself many, many times over. We have huge health problems, whether it's Alzheimer's, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, that we need solution to and the way you get those solutions is to fund our scientists," he said.

Sanders is one of a handful of Democrats who have jumped into the 2016 presidential race. The self-described Democratic socialist is trying to build up support among progressives as he takes on front-runner Hillary Clinton. Sanders received a warm welcome in Rochester, with crowd members going out of their way to praise the Vermont senator.

One audience member thanked Sanders for talking about the nation's high incarceration rates and the need to reform the nation's criminal justice laws. Sanders said the recent deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., highlight the need to make sure police are held accountable for their actions.

"When you have police officers who act illegally, who beat people up, who kill people — when they act illegally, those police officers must be held accountable," he said.

The Republican Party of Minnesota used Sanders' visit as an opportunity to raise money. An email to supporters read, "Today, Bernie Sanders is in Rochester reminding us just how many Democrats are true Socialists." The email also goes after Clinton, calling her a "scandal-ridden candidate" and urges people to donate to help ensure a Republican presidential candidate is elected.

So far, more than a dozen Republicans are running for the White House in 2016. One GOP hopeful — former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, visited Rochester in May for a fundraiser.

After the campaign event, Sanders was asked why he chose to stop in Rochester. The candidate said one of the major reasons was geographical convenience. He had been at a rally in Madison, Wis. the day before and was headed to Iowa.


"We took a good look at the map. That's the honest answer," he said. "But we know this town. It's a great town, and we're delighted to be here."

He said the strong show of support in Rochester shows his campaign is catching on.

"Let's not kid ourselves. At 9 o'clock in the morning on a Thursday morning to get 600 people out, I mean it is stunning. Really stunning," Sanders said. "And it just tells me that people want change."


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