YPSILANTI, Mich. — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders made his first campaign visit to Michigan Monday with a rally at Eastern Michigan University, promising his supporters they will help transform America.
The Vermont senator spoke for more than an hour to a crowd of roughly 9,000 people, and addressed hallmark issues of his campaign like breaking up the big banks on Wall Street, pushing for free college tuition, and reforming the criminal justice system.
"Together we are going to invest in jobs and education, not jail and incarceration," he said, telling supporters his campaign was about creating a "political revolution."
"Together, we are going to stand up for democracy, we are going to vote, and have to courage to take on powerful special interested and, yes, we will transform America," he said to roaring applause.
Sanders also addressed the ongoing water crisis in Flint, saying his meeting with residents before the rally was one of the more difficult meetings he'd ever attended in his political life.
"I really did not know how ugly it was," he said, referring to the tainted water situation and the fallout of the crisis.
Sanders told the crowd it was "beyond my comprehension in the year 2016 in the United States of America we are poisoning our children."
He added that if the state and local government cannot protect children, then "the federal government better get in there."
Flint's water became tainted when the city began drawing from the Flint River in April 2014. Regulators failed to ensure the water was properly treated, and lead from aging pipes leached into the water supply.
Rival Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton recently visited Flint and on Monday announced several endorsements from ministers in the city.
Sanders also repeated his call for Gov. Rick Snyder to resign in the wake of the ongoing crisis.
The Vermont senator also rejected Republicans’ calls for President Obama to delay nominating a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, going so far as to call them obstructionists.
“You talk about the Constitution a whole lot, well how about obeying the Constitution? And start holding hearings when President Obama nominates the next Supreme Court justice," he said.
“Talk about cowardice, talk about obstructionism. Here you have the Constitution as clear as clear could be.”
Sanders is set to debate fellow Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in Flint March 6, which is just two days before Michigan's primary election.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.