SOUTH PORTLAND — Ashleigh Burgess is such a fan of Bernie Sanders that the 25-year-old’s right arm is adorned with a tattoo of the Vermont senator and former presidential candidate.

Burgess was one of more than 500 supporters who descended Monday on Books-A-Million in South Portland for a meet-and-greet with Sanders, who was in town to promote his new book, “Our Revolution.”

“We still love you, Bernie!” shouted someone in the crowd as Sanders walked into the store.

Although Sanders lost the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton, his most ardent fans are still energetic and “feeling the Bern” for the 75-year-old populist.

“Once you’re a Bernie supporter, you’re always a Bernie supporter,” said Burgess, explaining why she added a Sanders tattoo to the 20 she already had. The tattoo portrays his famous large glasses and receding hairline.

“He’s still the only one standing up for the people,” said Burgess, a Portland resident.



Sanders carried Maine by a wide margin in the March Democratic caucuses, which saw an unprecedented voter turnout. Officials estimated that 46,800 people participated in the caucuses held at more than 400 locations around the state, beating the previous record of roughly 44,000 in 2008.

In all, Sanders won 23 primaries or caucuses in states and U.S. territories, but Clinton captured 34 to become the nominee.

Burgess said Sanders’ run inspired her to go to college and become a teacher, and she’s now taking classes at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland.

“Oh, my God, I’m freaking out now,” said Burgess, her hand on her heart, when she was next in line to greet Sanders with a hug and pose for a photo.

The adulation was widespread among Sanders fans. One man told Sanders, “I’ve never been as proud as anything in my whole life than the campaign that you ran.”


Sanders spoke for about 10 minutes to the crowd – all of whom had purchased his book. Some of the 600 books were signed by Sanders, and whether someone received a signed copy was random.

His topics Monday mirrored his populist stump speeches on the campaign trail, including encouraging President-elect Donald Trump to believe that climate change is real, not a hoax as Trump has said. Sanders said the United States must continue to invest in green energy sources.

“If we do not transform our energy systems, we will have a planet that will not be healthy for future generations,” he said.

Sanders also called on Trump to reject divisiveness and bigotry. Trump has been heavily criticized for his nationalist stances on immigration and race, and hate crimes against immigrants, religious minorities and people of color across the country have risen since he won the election.

Wearing a navy blue blazer, dark gray sweater and no tie, Sanders greeted each person warmly, saying a few words and sometimes hugging people tightly. When he met some of the children in line to see him, he would cup his hands over their ears or pat them on the head.

Stephen Fan, 82, of Durham, New Hampshire, said Sanders “was the only candidate I liked.”


“He was the only decent politician who was for the people and honest,” Fan said.


Dillon Murray, 24, of Bangor believes Sanders would have stood a better chance against Trump than Clinton. Murray said he volunteered for Emily Cain, the Democratic challenger to Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in the 2nd Congressional District. Poliquin defeated Cain, while Trump also captured the 2nd District and won one of Maine’s four electoral votes.

Murray said that while he was campaigning in northern Maine for Cain, he ran into a lot of people who said they would have voted for Sanders had he defeated Clinton in the primary, but were instead voting for Trump.

“Bernie gives voice to a lot of folks who don’t have a voice of their own,” Murray said.

A senior political science major at the University of Maine, Murray said he will leave college with about $27,000 in student loan debt, which will be difficult to pay off but is not the “crippling” amount that many of his friends are facing. He said he liked Sanders’ advocacy for free college tuition.

Sanders encouraged the crowd to stay active in worthy political causes.

“No, you’re not going to give up,” Sanders said. “You’re going to fight back and mobilize.”


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