Around the Islands | Sanders northeast campaign director arrives on Saipan

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THE northeast director of the Bernie Sanders campaign is here on Saipan, spreading the word about the Democratic caucus this Saturday.

Shannon Jackson, left, with Sophia Perez.  MV photo

Mr. Shannon Jackson, who spearheaded the Sanders campaign’s New Hampshire victory, arrived on Tuesday and has spent the past four days spreading the word about Senator Sanders and encouraging CNMI Democrats to come out and vote. He was kind enough to sit down with me at the Marianas Variety studio for an interview on Wednesday:

Sophia Perez: So let’s talk about the fact that you’re here.

Shannon Jackson: Absolutely, I loved getting this assignment. The CNMI is very, very important. As we’re seeing in this race as you just read off the delegate count, every delegate matters. And so, I was advocating strongly that we should really fight for this battle here and the campaign agreed with me that this is a really important place to have a presence and organize on the ground and make sure that the turnout is as high as it can be on Saturday. So I’m very, very happy to be here. It’s much different than my previous assignments and I’m very excited to do everything I can to get as many caucus-goers out on Saturday [as possible].

Sophia Perez: You weren’t here last year though, right? So I’m wondering, what changed between this year and last election cycle?

Shannon Jackson: From ’16?

Sophia Perez: Yes.

Shannon Jackson: I mean, every race is different. And that’s something that we jumped on in this race, we had to make sure that we weren’t fighting the ghosts of 2016. We had to really focus on this race, which was a much different approach, much different strategy. And one of those is that it wasn’t just a 50-state strategy. It was also looking at the territories and everything else like that. So I am thrilled that I’m here. I’ve been amazed at the really warm welcome from everyone I’ve interacted with. We’ve got many, many super volunteers already activated on the ground before I got here and now it’s just a matter of supporting them and doing everything we can for Saturday.

Sophia Perez: So what activities do you have in store for you? What are you guys doing to get the vote out?

Shannon Jackson: Sure, we are doing anything and everything from texting and email to calling phone banks to just having a presence at large events. Tonight, I’ll be going to American Memorial Park where there’s a speaker…

Sophia Perez: Oh, you’re seeing Anita Hofschneider?

Shannon Jackson: Absolutely.

Sophia Perez: See you there!

Shannon Jackson: Oh, fantastic! Yeah I’m looking for places. I feel there’s two things that I’m really focusing on here: first off, making sure people know that they can vote in the caucus. And I think that from my conversations and the work — it’s only been about two days since I’ve been here — but I think that’s the biggest obstacle is that there’s not a lot of people who know that this is going on. In 2016, I think there were less than 200 people that came out to caucus.

Sophia Perez: That was, I believe, the first time they held a caucus.

Shannon Jackson: That was the first time.

Sophia Perez: So, sort of a new concept out here.

Shannon Jackson: Absolutely.

Sophia Perez: Particularly since we can’t vote for president.

Shannon Jackson: Which is something that the senator would change.

Sophia Perez: Really?

Shannon Jackson: Yes.

Sophia Perez: I was going to ask you about that. So it’s a little bit strange out here, right? Being a Commonwealth and in Guam, a territory, the Marianas are in a very awkward political position that sometimes ends up you know, we fall through the cracks. So what is the senator’s stance on that?

Shannon Jackson: So the senator really believes that you need to be on parity with the rest of United States and have full participation. You are part of our country, and he wants to embrace you as such. And so his policies of Medicare for all, education for all, the way that he tackles climate change, the way that he fights for equal access to the internet, all these services and the plans that he’s talking about, he would make sure that you and the rest of the territories would have an equal hand in that.

Sophia Perez: So, we would vote for president under President Sanders.

Shannon Jackson: Yes, I think that is definitely something we would fight for. He’s said publicly, and I don’t want to get ahead of the senator, but he’s said that when he visited Puerto Rico, that he really believes that they should have a voice. And I would bet that that goes for everyone else.

Sophia Perez: Does that mean that we would become a state? How does that work, like would we have a voting representative in Congress?

Shannon Jackson: So I think that the thing that I really respect with the senator is he’s not one to dictate, he wants to listen to the people. And I think that, as you said, Guam has a different situation than here, as does American Samoa, as does D.C. and also Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The senator is a great listener, as well as a great leader. And I think that’s a quality that really would make him the best president we could have.

Sophia Perez: So it sounds like he’s open to increasing the political representation out here, but what exactly that looks like would be a matter of discussion.

Shannon Jackson: Pretty much so.

Sophia Perez: Well that is exciting.

Shannon Jackson: And I’m excited to hear the other speaker tonight, because I don’t ever want to think that I’m coming up with the answer since I’m a guest here. And I’m excited to learn.

Sophia Perez: I think I speak for everyone when I say, we’re happy you’re here.

Shannon Jackson: Well thank you, I appreciate it.

Sophia Perez: It’s not an island of necessarily 100% Bernie supporters, but the fact that someone from a federal election campaign would find it important to come here is rare, you know? To my knowledge, there’s no one coming from the Biden campaign…

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