Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Equilibrium — Presented by NextEra Energy — Tasmanian devil wipes out penguin population Overnight Health Care: Medicaid enrollment reaches new high | White House gives allocation plan for 55M doses | Schumer backs dental, vision, hearing in Medicare Schumer backing plan to add dental, vision and hearing coverage to Medicare MORE rallied a packed lawn of supporters Tuesday evening at his formal campaign kick-off event in Burlington, Vt.

The independent senator from Vermont said the event marked the beginning of "a political revolution to transform our country economically, politically, socially and environmentally."

“Enough is enough. This great nation and its government belong to all of the people, and not to a handful of billionaires," Sanders said in prepared remarks during a speech overlooking Lake Champlain.


The self-described Democratic socialist, first elected to the Senate in 2006, offered fiery remarks outlining a series of progressive issues he would focus on in his campaign, including income inequality, the "planetary crisis of climate change" and political spending after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

"There is something profoundly wrong when one family owns more wealth than the bottom 130 million Americans. This grotesque level of inequality is immoral. It is bad economics. It is unsustainable," Sanders said.

"This type of rigged economy is not what America is supposed to be about. This has got to change," he said during his speech, which drew the support of local Vermont leaders, as well as the founders of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who introduced the liberal senator.

Sanders first announced his White House bid to challenge Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Memo: The center strikes back Democratic clamor grows for select committee on Jan. 6 attack White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine MORE for the Democratic nomination during an April 30 press conference in Washington, D.C..

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley is also expected to join the Democratic race during an event Saturday.

"Now is not the time for thinking small. Now is not the time for the same old, same old establishment politics and stale inside-the-Beltway ideas," Sanders said in a thinly veiled shot at Clinton, the Democratic front-runner.

Sanders has so far shied away from directly criticizing Clinton on key issues, though has mentioned her vote for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and has been a vocal opponent of pending international trade deals.

The Vermont senator maintained Tuesday that his campaign would not attack Clinton or any other campaigns.

"As someone who has never run a negative political ad in his life, my campaign will be driven by issues and serious debate, not political gossip, not reckless personal attacks or character assassination," Sanders said.

"This is what I believe the American people want and deserve. I hope other candidates agree, and I hope the media allows that to happen. Politics in a democratic society should not be treated like a baseball game, a game show or a soap opera. The times are too serious for that," he said.

Sanders has said that he won't use a super-PAC and that he would rely instead on small-dollar donations. He has raised several million dollars from more than 100,000 contributors through his website, according to his campaign.

Sanders is moving to quickly shore up support among progressives eyeing an alternative to Clinton, who has planned her first major 2016 rally for June 13. 

Sanders spoke Tuesday as a candidate who relished his longshot odds, inviting supporters aboard a progressive ship sailing to the left of Clinton.

Sanders talked tough on Wall Street reform, arguing, "If a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist."

On creating jobs, Sanders touted a $1 trillion infrastructure spending bill he introduced earlier this year, saying it would create 13 million jobs over five years. 

He cast the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour as a "starvation wage" that "must be raised" to $15 an hour over the next several years. 

Sanders also called for paid sick leave and "guaranteed vacation time for all," and advocated a healthcare system that provides Medicare services to all Americans. 

"Despite the modest gains of the Affordable Care Act, 35 million Americans continue to lack health insurance, and many more are under-insured," he said.

Sanders also took shots at Republicans in Congress, maintaining he would advocate contrasting budgets that placed more emphasis on social programs.

"Instead of cutting Social Security, we’re going to expand Social Security benefits. Instead of cutting Head Start and child care, we are going to move to a universal pre-K system for all the children of this country," he said.

"As president, I will fight to make tuition in public colleges and universities free, as well as substantially lower interest rates on student loans.”

—Updated at 6:37 p.m.