An officer injured in a shootout with the Boston Marathon bombers six years ago responded to Bernie Sanders on Twitter following the presidential candidate's controversial remark during a CNN town hall in New Hampshire on Monday night.
Sanders said Monday that even "terrible people" like Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should have the right to vote while they are behind bars.
Former Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Officer Dic Donohue responded to Sanders' comments on Twitter Tuesday, saying "All I have to say today is that it would be nice to talk to @BernieSanders in person since he'll be in my home state. We can talk about his comments from last night and more. I don't live too far from Cambridge."
Tuesday afternoon, the Vermont senator met with local organizers at Cambridge's Club Passim. He did not address the controversy over his remarks.
Donohue was wounded in the early morning shootout between bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and police in Watertown on April 19, 2013. The bullet that struck Donohue severed a major artery and he lost most of his blood and nearly died. He also suffered nerve damage.
Tamerlan died during the manhunt, and Dzhokhar ultimately received the death penalty for his role in the bombing. He is currently residing at the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, as his attorneys continue to argue that his sentence should be tossed.
NBC10 Boston reached out to Donohue. He said he was busy Tuesday, but that if someone from Sanders' campaign wanted to set up a meeting where the two could grab coffee and talk, he would like to have a dialogue.
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An email to the Sanders campaign was not immediately returned Tuesday.
During Monday's town hall, Harvard University student Anne Carlstein asked Sanders to clarify his position that convicted felons should be able to vote while serving time in prison.
"Does this mean that you would support enfranchising people like the Boston Marathon bomber, a convicted terrorist and murderer?" Carlstein asked. "Do you think that those convicted of sexual assault should have the opportunity to vote for politicians who could have a direct impact on women's rights?"
"Here is my view: If somebody commits a serious crime — sexual assault, murder — they're going to be punished. They may be in jail for 10 years, 20 years, 50 years, their whole lives. That's what happens when you commit a serious crime," Sanders said. "But I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy — yes, even for terrible people. Because once you start chipping away ... you're running down a slippery slope."
Supporters of Sanders said they agree with the candidate's stance on voting rights, but in Cambridge, where Tsarnaev once lived, people are keenly aware of how those remarks could be interpreted.
"I really feel for them, and I can understand their pain, but I also agree in universal suffrage," Donna Palermino of Cambridge said Tuesday.
"He said, 'I know I'm going to be vilified in the media for this, but the fact of the matter is that every American has the right to vote,'" said Zach Boyer of New Bedford.
"I do believe that even if they are in jail, they're paying their price to society, but that should not take away their inherent American right to participate in our democracy," Sanders said Monday night.
The senator's remarks drew applause from the crowd that had gathered, but also a critique from moderator Chris Cuomo.
"You're writing an opposition ad against you by saying you think the Boston Marathon bomber should vote not after he pays his debt to society, but while he's in jail," Cuomo remarked. "You're sure about that?"
"I think I have written many 30-second opposition ads throughout my life. This will be just another one," Sanders said. "This is what I believe. You believe in democracy, you believe that every single American 18 years of age or older, who is an American citizen, has the right to vote."
The Republican National Committee issued a statement Tuesday saying Sanders "seems to get more radical by the week."
"With calls to eliminate private health insurance, give health care to illegal immigrants, allow for the government-takeover of key industries and even give terrorists and sex offenders the right to vote, Sanders’ socialist schemes would bankrupt America, turn back the clock on progress, and are far out of the mainstream," RNC Spokesperson Mandi Merritt said.