NEW PALTZ, N.Y. — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders lent his populist star power Friday to a fellow liberal champion, calling Zepyhr Teachout’s run for a hotly contested upstate New York House seat one of the most important congressional races in the country.

Democrat Teachout is running against Republican John Faso for a seat Democrats see as a prime pick-up opportunity. The independent Vermont senator told hundreds of ralliers at a park in the Hudson Valley college town of New Paltz that America needs to elect a grassroots-oriented leader who can fight against the entrenched power of moneyed interests.

“You will have a leader in Congress at a time when we are in desperate need of bold leadership. You will have a leader who has the guts to stand up to the billionaire class and tell these greedy people that they cannot have it all,” Sanders told a spirited crowd made up heavily of students from the adjacent State University of New York at New Paltz.

Voter registration tables were set up around the rally.

Sanders accused Faso of being beholden to Wall Street billionaires.

Teachout was raised on a farm in Sander’s adopted home state of Vermont. And both politicians galvanized liberals with longshot political challenges. Teachout became a liberal standard bearer during her surprisingly strong 2014 primary challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election bid. The Fordham University law professor moved to the Hudson Valley after that election.

Teachout told the crowd that, like President Theodore Roosevelt, she would fight against the “unholy alliance” between corrupt business and corrupt politics.

“When I go to Washington as your representative, you’re all coming along with me,” she said.

Sanders has continued to support selected Democrats since ending his presidential bid this year. He was scheduled to appear in Pittsburgh later Friday to rally for Senate candidate Katie McGinty.

Faso served for 16 years in the state Assembly, where he was a sharp-tongued conservative critic of Democratic policies. He became Assembly minority leader before he left in 2002. He ran unsuccessfully for state comptroller that year and for governor in 2006.

Faso, also in New Paltz on Friday, said it was “ironic” that Teachout was criticizing his fundraising since she has been supported by wealthy donors outside the district. And he dismissed Sanders’ campaign appearance.

“One socialist endorsing another is not really a surprise,” Faso said.

New Paltz is a liberal haven in a district that encompasses small cities and farmland extending west from the Hudson Valley. Retiring three-term Republican Rep. Chris Gibson won re-election in New York’s 19th District as he compiled a centrist record.