Key election dates
• July 18-21: Republican convention, Cleveland
• July 25-28: Democratic convention, Philadelphia
• Oct. 11: Registration deadline for general election
• Oct. 17: Early voting begins for general election
• Nov. 8: Election Day
Hall County Democrats responded with mixed emotions after Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, with some ready to back the presumptive nominee for president and others looking elsewhere despite the prospect of a Trump administration.
“We’re excited that he’s going to help defeat Donald Trump, and we want all of his supporters to know that their voices are needed if what we want is going to come to pass,” said Paul Glaze, a Hall resident who leads voter turnout efforts out of Athens.
With hugs and handshakes, Sanders endorsed Clinton and emphatically told his supporters their “political revolution” must now turn to electing his Democratic former rival.
Sanders bestowed his long-awaited support before a boisterous New Hampshire crowd, declaring he wanted to make it “as clear as possible as to why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton.” He congratulated her for securing enough delegates to win the Democratic nomination and vowed to do everything he could to help her defeat presumptive Republican nominee Trump.
“This campaign is not really about Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, or any other candidate who sought the presidency. This campaign is about the needs of the American people and addressing the very serious crises that we face,” Sanders said.
He added: “And there is no doubt in my mind that, as we head into November, Hillary Clinton is far and away the best candidate to do that.”
The former secretary of state said the final four months of the campaign would be “much more enjoyable” working alongside Sanders and echoed her campaign slogan, “We are stronger together.”
During much of her remarks, Clinton embraced many of Sanders’ causes, vowing to oppose trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, fight to raise the federal minimum wage — adopting Sanders’ tone, she called it a “starvation wage” — and overhaul the campaign finance system.
“These aren’t just my fights. These are Bernie’s fights. These are America’s fights,” Clinton said.
Democrats have coalesced around Clinton’s candidacy since she defeated Sanders in primaries last month in California and five other states, helped along by endorsements from President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and others. In a high-profile rally last month, Clinton was embraced by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a liberal stalwart popular with Sanders’ followers.
But Clinton has not persuaded all Sanders’ supporters in North Georgia.
“I respect his right to follow his conscience,” Hall resident Brian Aycock said. “I will not support Hillary, regardless of what she may offer.”
Sanders has spent the past month seeking to influence the party’s platform for the Philadelphia convention and promote electoral reforms including allowing independents to participate in future primaries. He called the platform “the most progressive” in history and hailed steps to create a $15 an hour minimum wage, prevent Wall Street malfeasance and address climate change.
“Bernie Sanders is a patriotic hero,” said Gabe Shippy, a Democratic member of the Hall County Board of Elections. “Despite his reservations about Secretary Clinton and her platform, the specter of a Trump presidency was too much for him to bear.”
Shippy was an early supporter of Sanders’, but said the bigger picture is critical now.
“For the sake of the country (Sanders) swallowed his pride and began the process of uniting the Democratic Party in order to continue the progress we’ve made over the past eight years,” he said.
Recent polls have shown that many Sanders voters plan to back Clinton but have reservations about her honesty.
“I still believe in national health care,” Aycock said. “She doesn’t. I believe in getting money out of politics. She doesn’t. She has failed on environmental issues, trades deals and foreign policy.”
In his remarks, Sanders warned that Trump was a divisive figure who would create further splintering.
“In these stressful times for our country, this election must be about bringing our people together, not dividing us up,” Sanders said. “While Donald Trump is busy insulting Mexicans, Muslims, women, African-Americans and veterans, Hillary Clinton understands that our diversity is one of our greatest strengths.”
Trump, who has courted Sanders’ backers as the primaries have winded down, wasted little time going after Sanders, accusing him of capitulating to Clinton.
“Bernie Sanders, who has lost most of his leverage, has totally sold out to Crooked Hillary Clinton,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Sanders was not true to himself and his supporters.”
Gainesville resident Melissa Clink will be in Philadelphia at the Democratic National Convention.
“Although it is a tough day to be a Sanders delegate, I do take pride in the fact that because of his leadership and wisdom, the Democratic platform will be the most progressive platform in history,” she said. “The work still needing to be done did not start with the campaign and will not end once the convention is over.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.