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Bernie Sanders returns to Chico, but we have our eyes on another candidate

Back in June 2016, just five days before the primary election, nearly every person on the CN&R’s editorial staff headed to the university to see Sen. Bernie Sanders speak. We were stunned that a serious contender for the office of president of the United States would come to our little neck of the woods.

We’d already endorsed Sanders for the primary and nearly a year earlier published a long-form piece about the Vermont senator’s so-called political revolution. Still, we devoted a cover story’s worth of coverage based on the local visit and the excitement surrounding it (see “Presidential oratory,” June 9, 2016).

Nearly 6,000 people showed up.

But we all know how the primary turned out. Indeed, we learned the day before we went to press that Hillary Clinton had snagged the Democratic Party nomination. I headlined my column in that issue “Mourning time.”

Fast-forward to last week. On Thursday (Aug. 22), Sanders once again touched down in Chico, this time to a smaller venue. Before that, he toured Paradise to bear witness to a small slice of the destruction wrought by the Camp Fire.

This time around, the reaction around the CN&R’s office was, how shall I put it, less enthusiastic. We didn’t exactly draw straws to see who’d cover his speech, but none of us was clamoring for the assignment.

The sharp contrast between then and now might be attributable to a few factors. First, the field of presidential hopefuls is massive. Second, thanks to the self-anointed “chosen one” in the White House, we haven’t had a break from national politics since 2016.

In any event, Sanders’ appearance got a lot of locals excited about the 2020 primary. His message on climate change was important and well-timed, too, as you’ll read about in Andre Byik’s report on Sanders’ visit and, more important, the local efforts to update Chico’s Climate Action Plan (see page 8).

Another candidate Speaking of the campaign season, this week’s issue includes a Q&A with another prominent Democratic candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Warren recently spoke with Brad Bynum, editor of our sister paper the Reno News & Review, which is located in Washoe County, a former Republican stronghold that’s increasingly turning blue.

Yours truly has been keeping tabs on the former Harvard Law School professor for the better part of a decade. I began reading about her during the Great Recession—especially her efforts to put consumer protections into place following the financial collapse—and was intrigued to see her elected to office in 2012.

The next year, to accompany a cover story on the subject of rising college tuition and the crushing loan debt carried by students, I wrote an editorial about Warren’s Student Loan Fairness Act, an effort at the time to lower the interest rate on subsidized loans commensurate with that of the banking industry (see “End the profiteering,” Editorial, Aug. 22, 2013). Unfortunately, that amendment and several others over the years have been blocked by Senate Republicans.

But Warren is someone to watch, and that goes doubly for those saddled with student loan debt. Right now, she and Sanders are neck and neck in the lead of the pack. March will be here before we know it.