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Sanders makes pitch for votes on the Iron Range

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Bernie Sanders, Jane Sanders
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. and his wife Jane Sanders wave as they arrive to a campaign rally at Hibbing High School in Hibbing, Minn., Friday, Feb. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Hibbing, Minn. --Wearing a steelworkers union jacket and speaking at an ornate high school auditorium built nearly a century ago with money from area iron ore mines, Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders railed against trade agreements and Wall Street in a nearly hour long speech Friday morning.

"I do understand what’s happening up here on Iron Range," he told an enthusiastic crowd of more than 500. Nearly 2,000 mine workers have been laid off in the past year from the region's iron ore mines. Three of the six major taconite facilities are shut down.

Like most people on the Iron Range, Sanders blamed the downturn on illegally dumped steel from China and other countries.

"Together we are going to end that," he promised.

Sanders traveled to Hibbing in advance of Super Tuesday, when Minnesota will join 11 other states in voting for their preferred Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. The Hillary Clinton campaign has announced Chelsea Clinton will visit Duluth prior to Tuesday.

Sanders has repeatedly mentioned Minnesota as a state he hopes to do well in Tuesday. He and Clinton have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV advertising in the state and both campaigns have paid staff working here.

As Sanders was speaking in Hibbing, his campaign announced he will hold another Minnesota rally at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester on Saturday night.

Sanders used the issue of mining layoffs to highlight what he described as a major policy difference with his Democratic rival. He said Clinton supported the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, and only opposed the proposed trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership after pressure from unions.

"Trust me, I will stay in opposition to the TPP," he shouted to loud applause.

He also highlighted his opposition to the Iraq War, something Clinton initially supported. That's in contrast to Sanders' rally a month ago in Duluth attended by more than 5,000 supporters, where Sanders barely mentioned the former first lady.

For the remainder of his 50 minute speech, Sanders hit on his main themes of income inequality and what he calls a "rigged" economic system. He pushed for free college tuition, a $15 minimum wage and a Medicare-for-all style health care system.

He suggested paying for some of his proposals with taxes on Wall Street "speculation" and by closing corporate income tax loopholes.

Sanders closed by urging everyone to vote in Tuesday's caucus, and to bring friends and family.

"If we can win here in Minnesota," he said, "we have a real path to victory for the Democratic nomination."