Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton pushed “common sense gun control,” comprehensive immigration and a range of other topics to a diverse crowd of about 1,400 people at Carl Hayden High School on Monday, less than 24 hours before the Arizona presidential preference election.
“So tomorrow’s a big day in Arizona, I gotta tell you the stakes are getting higher and higher while the rhetoric on the other side goes lower and lower,” Clinton said.
“There is an opportunity for everybody in Arizona to go out and vote for the kind of future you want, the kind of president you want,” she said. When someone in the crowd yelled “we want you,” she responded with, “Well, I want you to want me.”
Two of the speakers to warm up the crowd before Clinton’s speech were former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and her husband, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly.
Clinton expressed her admiration for Giffords, who survived an assassination attempt in 2011 in Tucson. Giffords said “(Clinton is) fighting the gun lobbies in Washington, and that’s why I’m voting for her.”
“We are standing up for common sense gun reform,” Clinton said, prompting raucous cheers.
Clinton touched on health care, wages, the Second Amendment, education and immigration reform.
“There are three big tests that the president is going to face,” she said. “First, can you make a difference in improving the lives of Americans. Second, can you keep us safe. And third, can you bring us together as a nation – which is where we should be going.”
She also chided Arizona for its spending on education, saying the state is 50th in the country in per capita spending per student.
“I believe that Arizona can and needs to do better,” she said. “We’re going to talk about jobs of the future – we’ve got to have our young people educated for those jobs.”
Clinton was introduced by Thomas Perez, the United States Secretary of Labor who successfully prosecuted Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in a discrimination case for the Justice Department in 2012. During his introduction he referenced Donald Trump, saying “she understands that it’s not about if you have big hands, but if you have a steady hands.”
A crowd of more than 2,000 supporters waited for hours on the uncharacteristically warm March day to see their candidate. Among the crowd were a group of six Sandra Day O’Connor High School students that came to see Clinton on the first day of their Spring Break.
“I think it’s good to get politically involved, especially as first time voters,” said Matthew Hernandez, 18. “It really gives us the opportunity to get to know a candidate other than what media outlets are saying. It’s taking it straight on, first hand.”
Taylor Eddelman, another spring-breaker and first-time voter, was asked why she chose Clinton and not Bernie Sanders, who, according to many polls, has more support from young voters.
“A lot of young people are getting swept away by Bernie Sanders talking about free education, but they don’t know realistically what that means to America. How are we going to pay for it? Hillary is just more realistic,” said Eddelman.
Also outside the campaign event was a handful of Donald Trump supporters sporting signs and flags. Dan Nida, a veteran and Trump supporter drove from Prescott to protest the Clinton gathering.
“She’s all about power,” Nida said. “She doesn’t care about you, she doesn’t care about me.”
Clinton’s prompt speech ended on the topic of immigration reform.
“Pitting groups against one another is wrong,” she said. “It’s not our values, it’s not what we stand for and I do believe that we are stronger and more effective when we come together instead of moving apart.”
She said she would “go anywhere” to bring groups together.
“We are a nation of immigrants and exiles,” she said, promising “to fight for comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. But I can’t do any of this without your help. That’s why I need you tomorrow – I need you to come out, bring everyone you possibly can and come out and vote.”