Meet the activists who want Clinton County to 'feel the Bern'

Will Clinton County 'feel the Bern' in 2016?
Will Clinton County 'feel the Bern' in 2016?


    Will Clinton County 'feel the Bern' in 2016?


Will Clinton County 'feel the Bern' in 2016? 02:36

Plattsburgh, New York (CNN)Hillary Clinton came to this small city on the gentle banks of Lake Champlain 16 years ago -- the terminal stop on her 62-county listening tour.

"It's a great joy for me ... to end here in Clinton County," the then-Senate candidate said.
Now she's running for president, and in the far reaches of upstate New York, some die-hard liberals want to make the 81,000 residents of Clinton County "feel the Bern." The county is named for George Clinton, the first (and third) governor of New York.
Clinton may have trounced Barack Obama here in 2008, but eight years later, lawn signs for her current rival -- Bernie Sanders -- plaster Plattsburgh, the county seat.
    A "Honk for Bernie" gathering in Trinity Park transformed the center of town into what nearly sounded like Brooklyn at rush hour.
    "We have 'Honk 4 Clean Energy,' 'Honk 4 Veterans,' ... 'Honk 4 Single Payer,' " said Adam Guillette, a 25-year-old Sanders supporter and organizer in Clinton County. "They're responding to Bernie and the issues he represents."
    Martin Mannix, the county Democratic chairman, says Sanders is the only candidate from either party with any kind of operation in the county. Mannix wouldn't say on the record who he supports; the local party is remaining neutral.
    "They're very familiar with Bernie Sanders," he said, because Lake Champlain is all that separates them from Vermont. "(Local volunteers) have pulled together and have a very energetic presence in this area."
    It's kind of a myth that upstate New York is the conservative counterweight to the liberal metropolis that is New York City. The coastal counties bordering Vermont to the east -- and all but three of the counties bordering Canada to the north and west -- voted for Obama four years ago.
    "It used to be a bastion of Republican strength," Mannix said. "That's no longer the case."
    Many of Sanders' supporters in Clinton County say they wouldn't vote for the former secretary of state if she won their party's nomination. Rachelle Armstrong, 67, is an exception, but believes the Vermont senator is far better qualified.
    "I think his senatorial and congressional record speaks very positively for his effectiveness," she said. "And if you compare that to the record of Hillary Clinton in the Senate, her senatorial accomplishments are quite minor."
    Guillette said he and his group of local volunteers have "blanketed Plattsburgh," knocking on over 1,600 doors in one weekend and finding very little support for Clinton.
    The grassroots enthusiasm feels a lot like what then-candidate Obama spurred nationally in 2008. And some of Sanders' supporters happen to sound a lot like Obama supporters did eight years ago.
    "How does change happen?" Giullette said. "It's not politicians. It's usually from the bottom up -- a social movement."