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Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg rally Northern Nevada votes on second day of early voting

The Nevada Independent Staff
The Nevada Independent Staff
Election 2020

Democratic presidential candidates are spreading out and holding rallies across Northern Nevada, hoping to gin up turnout on the state’s second day of “early voting” for the presidential caucuses just six days away.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg all scheduled campaign events across Northern Nevada on Sunday — Sanders at a rally in Carson City, and Warren and Buttigieg each holding campaign events in Reno. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar held a rally in Reno on Friday, and former Vice President Joe Biden is attending a private fundraiser on Sunday and will appear at a community event in the city on Monday.

The trips and campaign events highlight Nevada’s importance to major Democratic presidential hopefuls — all save Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg are spending significant time and resources in the state, which will hold its caucus Feb. 22.

Below are highlights of each candidate’s stop in Reno on Sunday. This story will be updated after Warren and Buttigieg’s events later this evening.

Sanders and de Blasio criticize Bloomberg, other candidates in Carson City stop

No Democratic candidate has made the trek to the state capital more than Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont who drew just over 1,000 people to a rally inside a Carson City gymnasium on Sunday afternoon.

Sanders largely stuck to the popular aspects of his normal stump speech — transitioning to a single-payer Medicare for all health care system, supporting a Green New Deal to combat climate change, free college tuition and ending income inequality — but also made direct attacks on primary opponents, a sign of heightened tensions ahead of the state’s presidential preference caucus.

Sanders referenced primary opponents Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden by name in his remarks, saying that while they were “nice guys,” their campaigns were taking campaign contributions from questionable sources.

“Both of them have received campaign funds from more than 40 billionaires,” he said. “Pete has gotten money from the CEOs of drug companies, the health care industry. So what makes our campaign different is that we’re raising money, too, but we’re not raising money from billionaires. We don’t have a Super PAC. We have received more campaign contributions from more Americans than any candidate in the history of American politics.”

A recent Las Vegas Review-Journal poll of likely caucus-goers found Sanders with a 25 percent lead in the race, ahead of Biden (18 percent), Warren (13 percent), California billionaire Tom Steyer (11 percent), Buttigieg and Klobuchar (10 percent each).

Sanders was joined for the first time on the campaign trail by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a onetime presidential candidate who officially endorsed Sanders last week. De Blasio adopted some of Sanders’ vernacular, asking “brothers and sisters” in the audience if they were ready for a “political revolution,” while also going on the attack against his mayoral predecessor and current presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg and his support for “stop and frisk” policing policies.

“For years and years we were told that we needed a broken and discriminatory system, that denigrated young men of color, that separated police from community and created division,” he said. “I am sorry to report to you that the chief proponent of stop and frisk is running for president of the United States in this election.”

Sanders also did not hold back in criticizing Bloomberg — whom he deadpanned is “down to his last $60 billion.” Bloomberg is not on the ballot for the Nevada caucuses but has spent an unprecedented nearly $300 million on television and digital ads to boost his candidacy outside of the first four states in the Democratic primary process.

“I didn’t see Mike in Iowa, when we were holding town meetings with folks there,” Sanders said. “I didn’t see him in New Hampshire. Hey, you know what, I didn’t see him here in Nevada. Didn’t see him in South Carolina. But he thinks he can buy this election. Well, I’ve got news for Mr. Bloomberg, and that is that the American people are sick and tired of billionaires buying elections.”

Sanders also levied direct criticisms at President Donald Trump, calling him a “racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe and a religious bigot.” He also criticized recent news of a “lavish fundraiser” hosted in Florida by Trump and the Republican National Committee, which sent invites out to couples who donated at least $580,600.

“That is what goes on, $580,000 and Donald Trump will take a photograph with you,” he said. “Lucky you.”

Sanders also predicted that a record-setting turnout in the state’s caucus would mean “we’re going to win Nevada.” Roughly 118,000 voters participated in the state’s 2008 caucus, and 84,000 participated in the 2016 caucus.

The town hall is Sanders’ third visit to Carson City this cycle, the most of any other active presidential candidate (Elizabeth Warren, Tom Steyer, and Amy Klobuchar all made one trip to the state’s capital, and Pete Buttigieg has a rally scheduled on Monday). 

Carson City is also the location where a Navy veteran, John Wiegel, told Sanders he wanted to kill himself over struggles with Huntington’s disease and overwhelming medical bills. Staff of Nevada senators helped Wiegel fill out paperwork and reinstate his military insurance, who thanked Sanders in December and tried to give him his brown leather flight jacket (Sanders declined to take it).

Sanders, who was joined by his wife Jane Sanders, was briefly interrupted after taking the stage by topless animal rights protesters, who asked him to stop supporting the dairy industry and were quickly arrested. The Vermont senator played it off, saying there’s “always a little excitement” in Nevada. 

— Riley Snyder

Elizabeth Warren talks with child

Warren persists with Reno event despite cold, raspy voice

Sen. Elizabeth Warren took the mic in a gym at Reno High School on Sunday afternoon in spite of an unmistakably hoarse voice, a carryover from the previous night’s campaign events in Las Vegas.

She told the audience that she was advised to cancel her Reno events but didn’t want to because “Reno’s been left out of way too many conversations” and that wasn’t going to happen on her watch.

“The bad news is, after more than 100,000 selfies, I caught somebody’s cold,” she said. “The good news is, nevertheless, I persist.”

Warren spent much of her half hour of speaking time telling a story of how troubles securing child care nearly forced her to quit her job teaching at a law school. She was at her wit’s end until her Aunt Bee called and offered to help, moving in for the next 16 years.

“I almost got knocked off the track over child care, and here’s the part that really gets to me — today the next generation of women have a harder time finding child care than I do,” she said.

She also took questions from the audience about her plans for addressing the high cost of care for seniors. The campaign estimated that about 1,100 people attended.

Warren’s message resonated with Susan Priest, 55, a religion and philosophy professor at Western Nevada College. Her biggest priority is ensuring health care is treated as a human right, but Warren checks off other boxes.

“I want a woman. I’m really tired of the patriarchy,” Priest said. 

Asked whether she’s concerned about the trajectory of the race for Warren, who came in third in Iowa and fourth in New Hampshire, she was optimistic. Priest’s first choice when early voting on Saturday was Warren, and her second was Tom Steyer, who she likes because of his focus on the environment and “his ability to connect with people.”

“I had to wait two hours to vote, and that gives me a tremendous amount of hope,” she said, adding that she doesn’t think bold progressive policies like Medicare for all are creating an electability problem for Democrats. “The fear of why people would vote for Trump is not where we need to be focusing. We need to get out more people to vote.”

Many Warren supporters at the rally said they were teachers, including Spanish Springs resident Kristen De Haan — who is a special education teacher and relates to Warren’s time doing the same job.

“Just the fact that she’s been feet on the ground … you still have an idea of what we are facing as teachers,” said De Haan, 49.

In spite of Warren’s middling performances in the first two early states, De Haan said she’s feeling optimistic about Warren’s chances and believes she still very much in the game in Nevada — a place where she had one of the largest and most respected ground games earlier in the campaign.

“Honestly I don’t think anybody should be dropping out now because there are so many candidates,” De Haan said. “Most of the people I’m talking to are Elizabeth-Bernie, Bernie-Elizabeth, really close each way. A lot of people are undecided.”

Kari Kussman, a teacher from Oakland who was in line for a selfie with Warren, said she spent her Presidents Day weekend in Nevada knocking doors on behalf of Warren. She said she was feeling down after Warren didn’t finish on top in the first few states, but came to the conclusion that the race was far from over, with the vast majority of delegates still outstanding.

“I think at the end of the day, for me, I’m like, when will I ever have a candidate I believe in so much? Why would I ever give up?” she said.

Michelle Rindels

Buttigieg draws more than 1,200 at Sparks rally, paints picture of post-Trump Nevada

Pete Buttigieg drew a crowd of 1,238 people to the gymnasium at Sparks High School on Sunday evening, many of them stomping and cheering as he described the sun rising over the Nevada desert on a day when Donald Trump was no longer president.

Buttigieg’s rally in Sparks was sandwiched between a full schedule of activities in Las Vegas on Sunday and a series of campaign events in Northern Nevada on Monday, including one in far-flung Elko. He acknowledged it sometimes became so difficult to keep track of where he’s campaigning that his staff leaves him a note by the door so he knows what city he’s in.

“I’ll never forget Sparks,” he said. 

During a September rally in the same gymnasium, the power went out and attendees used their cellphones to restore light. The campaign turned the scene into a campaign ad.

The former South Bend, Indiana mayor made the case that he could bring crossover voters with him. He drew strong applause for arguing that God is not a member of a political party and contrasting his military record with Trump avoiding the Vietnam War.

Those moderate positions were selling points for many of the attendees who formed a long line before the rally in the February chill and spoke with The Nevada Independent.

Teresa Lindsey, a retired teacher from Washoe Valley, is an Air Force brat and said she appreciated his military service and his intelligence.

“He’s poised, he keeps his cool, I want that kind of president,” said Lindsey, 71. “I don’t want a loose cannon like we have right now.”

His youth doesn’t bother her.

“I don’t care if he’s 38 or 58. I think he has innate wisdom and he’s compassionate,” she said.

Michelle Rindels

Pete Buttigieg Sparks rally
Pete Buttigieg greets rally attendees at Sparks High School on Feb. 16, 2020. Photo by David Calvert

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