Politics & Government

Hillary Clinton draws Texas-size crowd in Dallas

Hillary Clinton talks to grassroots supporters in Dallas at Mountain View College on Tuesday.
Hillary Clinton talks to grassroots supporters in Dallas at Mountain View College on Tuesday. Star-Telegram

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton promised Texans on Tuesday to make America safe, hold Wall Street accountable, raise the minimum wage, make college affordable and reform immigration policy.

“Now, every election is about the future,” Clinton told more than 1,500 people in the gymnasium at Mountain View College in Dallas. “That’s why I’m laying out the plans I think will make our country strong.

“But this election will have such an impact on the society and economy,” she said during her half-hour speech. “So I’m going to work hard in Texas and I need your help.”

Clinton also took a jab at Republican Gov. Greg Abbott about healthcare, criticizing his decision not to expand Medicaid in Texas, which would give more low-income Texans health coverage.

“I don’t know about you, but I’d be a little worried about turning [healthcare] over to Greg Abbott,” she said, adding that he “should be doing everything he can to bring healthcare to more people in the state.”

Clinton’s campaign stop in Texas on Tuesday was her latest effort to boost grassroots support for her presidential campaign in the state.

Leah Payne, 26, of Fort Worth was among the throng of people there.

She said it was important for her to see Clinton in person. And that’s why she showed up before 8 a.m. to make sure she could get in to the event no matter how crowded it was.

“I think she’s pumped up and ready to show she can turn Texas blue,” said Payne, president of the Tarrant County Democratic Women’s Club and a 2008 Clinton delegate. “I wanted to show my support for her.”

The last public event Clinton held in Tarrant County was a rally in the Fort Worth Stockyards in 2008 during her first presidential bid.

North Texas Democrats may have crowded into the community college gym to show their support, but Republicans say she’s not the right choice for the country.

“Hillary Clinton is wrong if she thinks Americans won’t remember she voted for middle-class tax hikes in the Senate, championed her husband’s middle-class tax hike that cost him Congress, and continues to defend President Obama’s middle-class tax hike called Obamacare,” said Michael Short, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee. “If there was a tax on misleading campaign rhetoric, we could balance the budget with Hillary Clinton’s words alone.”

Issues of the day

Clinton touched on a slew of issues drawing national attention, saying the country needs a leader who can keep Americans safe and work with other countries, not to mention once again making college affordable, ensuring equal pay for equal work and raising the minimum wage.

“We are going to make sure you have every opportunity you deserve to make the most out of your own lives,” she told the crowd after arriving about an hour late for her event.

She said the country — and the world — face challenges that need to be addressed.

“As president, I want to work every single day to build an America that is both safe and strong,” she said. “I’m one of those who thinks our best days are ahead of us.

“That doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels,” she said. “It doesn’t mean we can wait for someone else to do the work.”

She ticked off issues she would like to address, including the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs, the fact that workers’ salaries aren’t going up and climate change.

“Unlike our Republican friends, I do think climate change is real,” Clinton said to big cheers. “It’s a great economic opportunity for us to create clean fuel products.”

Clinton also said Americans need to keep fighting for the right to vote. In fact, she said she believes that when a person turns 18, he or she ought to be automatically registered to vote.

“It’s so important that we keep opening doors for American citizens to vote, not making it difficult,” she said.

And with the laundry list of issues that needs to be addressed, Clinton said she fears that Republican presidential candidates are not up to the task of what needs to be done.

“If you’ve been watching the Republican debates, it is a little bit like watching reality TV,” she said with a grin.

Presidential candidates

Clinton is the latest presidential candidate to head to North Texas, hoping to claim a large portion of Texas’ delegates when voters go to the polls for the presidential primary on March 1.

Supporters gather for Hillary Clinton's appearance at Mountain View College

Republican candidates have been in and out of North Texas recently, with a North Texas Presidential Forum in Plano, a Ben Carson book signing in Fort Worth, a Donald Trump rally in Dallas, a Rick Santorum visit to Fort Worth and a Ted Cruz rally in Fort Worth.

Clinton has made several trips to Texas in recent months, most recently holding public events geared to build grassroots support and solidify Hispanic support in San Antonio and Houston. She has also attended several fundraisers.

“It’s time for more women to advance in government,” said Harriet Irby, a longtime Democratic Party activist from Pantego. “We need the expertise and life experience of women … to deal with the complex issues we face.”

The last public event Clinton held in Tarrant County was a rally at the Fort Worth Stockyards in 2008, during her first presidential bid.

Clinton has a deep attachment to Texas. She and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have been longtime friends with former Texas Land Commissioner Gary Mauro, since they all worked on George McGovern’s presidential campaign in 1972.

John Schleeter of Euless believes that Texas — and particularly Tarrant County — is going to support Clinton in a big way.

“Tarrant County is the key to Texas, the last major urban area that doesn’t vote Democrat,” said Schleeter, a and coordinator with the Tarrant for Hillary effort. “I think Tarrant County is going to surprise people with its strong turnout for Hillary.

“She’s going to kill it by a landslide.”

Clinton said she saw a sign referring to the need to “turn Texas blue.”

And she admitted doing that could take a while.

But she said that if Texans and voters nationwide “stand together in favor of what we believe is the right path for America” – which she said includes defending LGBT rights and preventing gun violence – “if we stand together, we will make change.”

Crowds gather at Mountain View College in Dallas, waiting for Hillary Clinton to speak to supporters Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. (Video by Anna M. Tinsley, Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Anna M. Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

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