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Even A Win In California Could Have Little Impact On Sanders Securing The Nomination


The race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in California is extremely close. Ahead of the primary there next month, the poll out just this week shows the two in a virtual tie. A win in California would be important symbolically and numerically for either of them. And both Clinton and Sanders have been campaigning hard. But as NPR's Nathan Rott reports, the state might not actually have all that big an impact on the nomination.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I welcome Bernie Sanders.


NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: San Pedro, Calif., was the first of six stops for the Sanders campaign Friday. There was Santa Barbara, Bakersfield, Visalia, among others. But perhaps no place or crowd was as blue as the one gathered on the docks in San Pedro, a town where about 1 in 4 people either work for a union or are retired from one.


FERNANDO LOSADA: We've got steelworkers, right? Steelworkers in the house. We got refinery workers.

ROTT: It took Fernando Losada, the Sanders campaign labor organizer, nearly a minute to go through the list of unions present as cranes unloaded a container ship in the backdrop. San Pedro sits right next to the dual ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the largest port complex in the U.S. So it's safe to say that most of the people here are voting Democratic.

And many of them are voting for Sanders. The biggest union here, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, or ILWU, has pledged its support to Sanders. Bobby Olvera Jr. is the local chapter's president.

BOBBY OLVERA JR: What he's doing - whether he wins or not - what he's doing is moving the Democratic Party back to progressive values and not being liberal 1 percenters.

ROTT: Notice how Olvera said whether Sanders wins or not. Well, to win, Sanders needs to run away with California. And even then, he might not be able to do it. There's a good chance that the race could be over before the polls in California even close. There are other primaries that day and Hillary Clinton has that big of a lead in pledged delegates. It does make you wonder, what would people in a liberal union town like San Pedro do if Clinton is the nominee?

MAUREEN GUTIERREZ: I don't like the if.

ROTT: You don't like the...

GUTIERREZ: No, I don't like the if.

ROTT: Maureen Gutierrez is a member of the ILWU.

GUTIERREZ: That would be a tough one. It's like a 50-50, like, well, what do you do kind of thing. You're going to have to do something.

ROTT: We'll come back to Gutierrez in a bit. But first, let's jump over to YahNe Ndgo, an organizer with a group that has a strong opinion on this matter - Bernie or bust.

YAHNE NDGO: Well, the Bernie supporters are split, I think, into primarily two categories. There are some supporters who prefer Bernie and there are some supporters who only like Bernie and who can't stand Hillary. And that second portion is a large portion.

ROTT: There are members of that portion here, like Aurelia Garcia.

AURELIA GARCIA: No, I wouldn't vote for him.

ROTT: Would you vote for Trump then?

GARCIA: No (laughter).

ROTT: You just wouldn't vote?

GARCIA: No (laughter).

ROTT: But there are a lot of people here who are somewhere in the middle, like Gwen Rohar.

GWEN ROHAR: It's kind of Bernie or bust. But at the same time, we can't allow Trump to win. We just can't.

ROTT: That's the position Gutierrez settled on. She's the woman who didn't like the if earlier.

GUTIERREZ: I think if it's not Bernie like we want, I think they would vote for Hillary because we need Democrats, you know, for our union.

ROTT: Sanders will do his best to prevent that if. He's planning to continue his campaigning in California up until the primary on June 7. Nathan Rott, NPR News, San Pedro, Calif. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nathan Rott
Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.