AP NEWS

Mississippi Democrats back Biden to try to bump out Trump

March 11, 2020 GMT
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John Walters, a 63-year-old Democrat, talks to a reporter about why he voted for Joe Biden in Mississippi's primary election on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, in Southaven, Miss. (AP Photo/Adrian Sainz)
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John Walters, a 63-year-old Democrat, talks to a reporter about why he voted for Joe Biden in Mississippi's primary election on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, in Southaven, Miss. (AP Photo/Adrian Sainz)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Former Vice President Joe Biden easily won Mississippi’s Democratic presidential primary Tuesday, outdistancing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as many voters said they saw Biden having the best chance to unseat Republican President Donald Trump in November.

“Anybody who can beat Trump, I’m voting for him,” said retired federal government employee John Walters, 63, who voted for Biden at a church in the northern Mississippi town of Southaven. Walters said he likes Biden’s record as a longtime senator and as vice president — and he thinks Biden can win the general election: “What I know about him, he’s a decent guy, and he’s for the working class.”

Patricia Ponton said Sanders earned her vote with his promises of big change, particularly his support for universal health care. The 27-year-old kindergarten teacher said her health insurance already takes about $400 from her check every month, and she’s scared to go to the doctor because she’s already thousands of dollars in debt from medical bills.

Ponton said she does not think Sanders has as strong a chance of beating Trump as Biden, but she voted for the Vermont senator “to make my voice heard.”

“He has a lot of radical ideas, but we need a big change,” said Ponton, who also voted in Southaven.

Biden campaigned in Mississippi on Sunday, working to shore up support among African Americans, who make up 38% of Mississippi’s population and most of the Democratic electorate. He spoke to a predominantly black congregation during a worship service at New Hope Baptist Church in Jackson, then ate lunch at a soul food restaurant before speaking to a racially diverse crowd at historically black Tougaloo College.

Sanders canceled a plan to appear Friday in Jackson so he could campaign in Michigan, which was awarding more delegates Tuesday. Actor Danny Glover, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and other Sanders surrogates knocked on doors and worked on other get-out-the-vote activities during the weekend.

Six states voted Tuesday. From highest to lowest in the number of delegates awarded, they were Michigan, Washington, Missouri, Mississippi, Idaho and North Dakota. Mississippi awarded 36 Democratic delegates.

The other candidate still seeking the Democratic presidential nomination is U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, but she trails Biden and Sanders by a wide margin in the delegate count.

The Mississippi ballot was set before several Democratic candidates left the presidential race, and their names still appeared.

The Republican primary ballot in Mississippi listed Trump and two other candidates. Mississippi was one of Trump’s strongest states in the 2016 general election, and he easily won the state’s 40 Republican delegates Tuesday.

Dimitri Crain, 55, of Brandon, attended the Biden rally on Sunday at Tougaloo. She said she liked Biden when he was President Barack Obama’s vice president, and she believes he can defeat Trump in November.

“I’m a common worker, and I think he has the back of common employees,” Crain said.

Jackson resident Shelby Parsons, 33, said she supported Sanders in 2016 and is voting for him this year. Parsons said she grew up poor and saw relatives struggle to pay bills, including healthcare expenses. She said she supports Sanders’ proposals for universal health coverage, free tuition for public colleges and a higher minimum wage.

“Every important event that’s happened in my life, every tragedy that’s happened in my life, I can see an alternate reality if Bernie had been president,” Parsons said.

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Associated Press reporter Adrian Sainz contributed to this report from Southaven, Mississippi.