Freshman Cal State Bakersfield student Elizabeth Palencia has a strong connection to Democratic nominee hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders: he's the reason why she switched her major from pre-nursing to political science.
When she heard the senator would not be in attendance at his planned CSUB appearance Thursday following a heart procedure, she was disappointed. But she's confident he will be back on his feet in no time.
"People posted comments saying their friend's dad had this surgery and he was fine," Palencia said.
Though Sanders would not be there, it was still important for Palencia to come out to Thursday's Bakersfield Barnstorm, especially since she will vote for the first time in the 2020 presidential election.
"He has interested me the most," she said. "The biggest thing is his plan for free college tuition. My mom is a single mother, and I'm just a freshman, so I know it'll be tough for us the next few years."
Around 100 Sanders supporters joined Palencia to share their stories and explain why the Vermont senator is their top choice for the next president of the United States.
His campaign announced Wednesday it was canceling all of the senator's upcoming events and appearances following a heart procedure for a blocked artery.
However, his campaign informed the CSUB community that a smaller event would still be held on campus.
Guadalupe Monreal, a social worker graduate student, said she and her classmates RSVP'd Monday when it was announced Sanders would be coming to Bakersfield. Without him there, she decided to come anyway because she wanted to hear about his plans and policies.
"I want to know how he'll better the lives of more than just the rich and the middle class," Monreal said before the event began.
Sanders is her top candidate because he is focused on helping minorities and larger groups of people, not just the establishment, she said.
Arvin Mayor Jose Gurrola spoke at the event and said he supports Sanders because he believes in climate change. Having a president who acknowledges scientific data will greatly affect Kern County, he explained.
"We're not talking about the polar bears or ice caps melting, we're talking about something that affects us locally," Gurrola said. "There's data that shows if this continues, our ability in the Central Valley to produce and grow food and export food will severely decrease. So does our economic livelihood and the ability for people to find good work here in the Central Valley."
The senator previously visited Bakersfield during the 2016 Democratic primary campaign, when he drew a crowd estimated at 3,000 to the Kern County Fairgrounds, according to a press release.