Crowd tops 17,300 for Bernie Sanders rally in Seattle

SEATTLE, Wash. — More than 17,300 people turned out for Bernie Sanders' packed rally in Seattle on Sunday.

Crowds inside the arena topped 10,300, and more than 5,400 gathered outside. More than 1,000 people left after fans couldn't fit into the arena.

Some in line said they had arrived at around 10:30 a.m. for the rally that began around 5:40 p.m. Sanders addressed the overflow crowd outside before his official remarks.

Washington state is "feeling the Bern" as more campaign contributions have gone to Bernie Sanders than any other candidate -- Democratic or Republican.

Seattle is among the top-five metropolitan areas for Sanders donations.

#BernieInSeattle: Huge crowds today at Seattle Center ahead of the Bernie Sanders rally. [Sanders visits Seattle, story:]

Posted by KIRO 7 News on Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Vermont senator spent the past week in Arizona, and now is taking his campaign to Washington and other West Coast states that he hopes will help him make up ground after a solid delegate lead built up by Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, who plans to visit the state later this week. 

"Let us have a record-breaking turnout here in Washington," Sanders said at KeyArena in Seattle, rallying supporters with many familiar themes.

Clinton has a lead of more than 300 delegates over Sanders from primaries and caucuses following a sweep of five states last Tuesday, so the Pacific Northwest has become important territory for him. Washington state, Alaska and Hawaii hold Democratic caucuses on Saturday, and Washington has the most delegates ultimately at stake with 101.

In Vancouver, Sanders declared to a packed gymnasium that the nation's economic, campaign finance and criminal justice systems are "rigged" and criticized pharmaceutical companies for rising drug costs.

Vancouver, which has a population of 167,000, has been historically overlooked during presidential campaigns.

What riled up the young, rowdy crowd most were Sanders' comments on health care and his support of gay marriage.

"Ten years ago, if somebody jumped up and said, 'I think that gay marriage will be legal in 50 states in America in the year 2015,' the person next to them would've said 'You are nuts, what are you smoking?'" Sanders said.

In Seattle, Sanders applauded the city's move to incrementally phase in a $15-an-hour minimum wage by 2017 that took effect in April 2015.

Sanders pledged to make it easier for people to vote. He elicited huge roars when addressing a number of issues such as racial justice, his intent to implement universal health care and fight climate change.

"In my view we have a moral responsibility to leave this planet to our children and grandchildren in a way that is healthy and habitable," said.

Washington is reliably Democratic when it comes to presidential elections. It hasn't gone for a Republican candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Here are videos from the festivities leading up to the event:

#BernieInSeattle >> Tulalip Tribe singers took the stage this evening ahead of the Bernie Sanders rally.[Watch rally & festivities #live now: [Updates:]

Posted by KIRO 7 News on Sunday, March 20, 2016

Getting for Bernie Sanders rally

Posted by Deborah Horne on Sunday, March 20, 2016

KIRO 7 News will also stream any GOP candidates if they come in town for primary events. Learn about how the state republican's caucus and May convention works here.