Bernie Sanders told a roaring crowd of supporters Thursday that his campaign is "just getting started" fighting economic inequality, changing the Democratic Party and bolstering Democrats running for Congress.
Speaking to a packed hall in Manhattan, Sanders took something of a victory lap as he reviewed the states he won and the fact that many young people flocked to his campaign over presumptive Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's. He did not mention her name, let alone endorse her as leading Democrats have urged.
"Our goal from day one has been to transform this nation and that is the fight we are going to continue," Sanders, his voice hoarse, told supporters who packed venue called The Town Hall near Times Square. "We have got to make sure that [Republican presidential candidate Donald] Trump is not president. But that is not good enough."
The independent senator got standing ovations as he reviewed his campaign positions, from free health care to free college tuition and campaign finance reform. Sanders urged his supporters to keep fighting inequality and insisting on "forcing open the door" of the Democratic Party to allow working Americans, and not political elites, to run it. That was a not-subtle swipe at a party he complained rigged the nominating system in Clinton's favor.
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Clinton earlier this month clinched the delegates required to carry the Democrats' banner against Trump, the likely GOP nominee. And Sanders this week acknowledged that he would not be the nominee.
Sanders supporters, who lined up for several blocks in advance of the speech, were not eager to hear him endorse Clinton.
Judi Gardner, of Huntington, New York, waited more than five hours to get into the hall for Sanders' speech. She's an elected delegate to the Democratic National Convention, and she's sticking with him through the event.
"The political revolution is continuing, Gardner, 69, said. "This will not end here."
Steve Favilla, 36, acknowledged the hall might fill up before he gets in.
"I want the media to see the thousands of people who are out here knowing we won't get in and still showing our support for Bernie," Favilla, and electrician from Queens, said.
Sanders has been signaling the transition of his movement from a presidential run to one aimed at bolstering likeminded Democratic candidates for Congress and offices up-and-down the ballot.
He was traveling to Syracuse on Friday to hold a rally with congressional candidate Eric Kingson, who is seeking the Democratic nomination in next Tuesday's primary to challenge Republican Rep. John Katko.
Sanders has raised about $2.5 million for several congressional and legislative candidates in recent weeks, sending out fundraising emails on behalf of liberals who could further Sanders' message.
The Vermont senator has raised about $300,000 for both former Sen. Russ Feingold, who is trying to win back his old seat in Wisconsin, and Florida congressional candidate Tim Canova, who is challenging DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who represents a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, area district.
Associated Press writers Ken Thomas and Laurie Kellman contributed to this report.