Hillary Clinton brought her Democratic presidential campaign to her home state Wednesday, calling for police reforms and hammering Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s anti-labor agenda.
Clinton addressed a half-full hall at the Parkway Ballroom in Bronzeville. She included a long menu of policy proposals that read like a Chicago-centric version of remarks she delivered Tuesday in Harlem.
Clinton, a Chicago native who grew up in Park Ridge, was introduced by Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Naperville native Sandra Bland, who was found hanged in a Texas jail cell after she was arrested in a traffic stop by a white Texas state trooper. Also on stage with Clinton were the mothers of South Side shooting victims Hadiya Pendleton and Rekia Boyd.
The deaths “must motivate every one of us to take on these issues reforming police practices and making it as hard as possible for people to get guns who shouldn’t have them in the first place,” Clinton said.
Campaign themes have shifted for both Clinton and rival Sen. Bernie Sanders, as the pair vie for votes in the heavily black African-American Democratic electorate in South Carolina and several other southern states that will hold their primaries in coming weeks. Clinton’s Bronzeville speech was billed as a get-out-the-vote rally ahead of Illinois’ March 15 primary, though she also had three fundraisers scheduled for her Chicago trip.
Sanders’ campaign announced the opening of the Vermont senator’s Illinois headquarters Wednesday in the South Loop, billing it as the first campaign office set up by either candidate in the state. Though Sanders would not be in the state, Cook County Board member Jesus “Chuy” Garcia — who received an endorsement from Sanders in his failed mayoral run against Clinton backer Mayor Rahm Emanuel — was to address supporters at 5 p.m.
On Wednesday, Clinton tied her campaign to the presidencies of her husband and Chicagoan Barack Obama. Under Bill Clinton, economic growth raised incomes for black families by 31 percent, nearly double the rate for whites. Clinton said she would work to continue Obama’s health care reforms, pledging to extend affordable health coverage to all Americans.
“I really believe if we look back to our last two Democratic presidents — both of whom I know well — we can see what real leadership looks like,” Clinton said, pointing out that Sanders has referred to Obama as “weak” and “disappointing.”
Clinton also took swipes at Rauner, who gave his budget address Wednesday despite the fact that the state had operated without a budget for more than eight months because of gridlock in the Legislature over the governor’s “Turnaround Agenda.”
“His plan would turn Illinois around, all right,” Clinton said. “All the way back to the time of the robber barons at the start of the 19th century.”
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Chris Butler, 31, a community organizer from Bronzeville, said he was backing Clinton, the candidate he thinks is more likely to win a general election. Black voters know Clinton after her eight years as first lady and her time in the Obama administration, he said, and that familiarity has made her more attractive to black voters than Sanders’ calls for radical change to the U.S. economy.
“We know her because her husband ran, and [Obama] picked her as his secretary of state. That’s a pretty good endorsement,” Butler said.
“I think [Sanders] can win. I just think [Clinton] has a much, much better chance,” Butler said. “If you’re looking for a revolution, go that way [for Sanders]. I’m not interested in that. I’m looking for progress in the system we’ve got.”