NEW YORK (AP) — Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders held dueling rallies for support from union members and black voters Wednesday ahead of New York's Democratic presidential primary, with Sanders preparing to leave the political battleground briefly to address a Vatican conference in Rome.
Both candidates courted organized labor, with the Vermont senator picking up support from the local transit workers union and walking the picket line at one point with striking Verizon workers— a small army of backer who could pass out leaflets in subways in the days ahead.
Clinton, meanwhile, issued a statement supporting the Verizon workers and calling for the company to come back to the bargaining table. The former New York senator also campaigned in New York City and addressed the National Action Network, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton — giving her a visible platform for the city's black community.
As Clinton dug into campaigning in her adopted home state, Sanders prepared to hop to Rome for a 10-minute speaking slot on Friday at a Vatican conference on social and economic trends. He's expected to head overseas just after the pair debate Thursday night.
His comments there would dovetail with his campaign push for economic equality and comes ahead of critical primaries in states with large Roman Catholic populations: New York on Tuesday and a week later in Rhode Island and Connecticut.
"What I'm planning to say is that it is not acceptable from a moral perspective, from an economic perspective or from an environmental perspective that so few have so much and that greed is running as rampant as it is throughout the entire planet," Sanders said in a phone interview with the Associated Press.
Clinton was heading to California on a fund raising swing for the weekend.
New York City offers by far the largest bloc of votes in next Tuesday's primary and campaign officials estimate it could account for about 70 percent of the vote. In 2008, when Clinton dueled with then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in the state's primary, more than half of the vote came from the city's five boroughs.
Polls have shown Clinton with a lead against Sanders, putting pressure on the self-described democratic socialist to overcome the former secretary of state's edge. Clinton holds a lead of about 250 pledged delegates in the chase for the nomination, an advantage that Sanders is trying to chip away in upcoming primaries in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and beyond.
Sanders announced the first endorsement from a Senate colleague, Oregon's Jeff Merkley.
Clinton has captured the endorsements of most of the chamber's Democrats.
In an op-ed piece in The New York Times, Merkley cited Sanders' positions on the dangers of global warming, and the "threats to our economy from high-risk strategies at our biggest banks." He said that Sanders has fought hard for military veterans, and he conceded he has an uphill battle ahead of him to win the Democratic nomination.
AP's Rachel Zoll contributed to this report.
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