Americans cannot let the negativity of the campaign season get them down, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told a crowd gathered Sunday at St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh.
Clinton followed the rally with a brief stop at nearby Chavis Center Park – an early voting site – where the crowd swarmed her as she stepped onto the sidewalk. She stayed long enough to snap selfies and shake hands before leaving for an evening appearance in Charlotte.
North Carolina is a key battleground state in this year’s presidential race, and the campaigns for Clinton and her Republican opponent Donald Trump have doubled down on getting out the vote, holding more than a dozen events in the past week. Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions also was in North Carolina on Sunday, stumping for Trump at the N.C. State Fair in Raleigh and in Greensboro.
St. Augustine’s President Everett Ward and Democratic dignitaries warmed up the crowd of more than 3,500, the pauses between their speeches punctuated with chants of “Hill-a-ry! Hill-a-ry! Hill-a-ry!”
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Clinton will ensure nobody is left behind and build on the progress that President Barack Obama made, said U.S. Rep. David Price, a 4th District Democrat.
“Here in North Carolina, we know what the alternative is, what happens if we stay home from the polls out of frustration or apathy. We know what it looks like when the forces of fear and hatred … stand in the way of progress,” Price said.
It’s easy to forget how far the country has come in the last eight years, Clinton said. This election, she said, is about who Americans are as individuals and as a country.
“Although I’m asking for the honor of your vote, it’s really about voting for yourselves, voting for what you stand for and what you believe in, the issues that you know are important in our country. It is about standing up for the lessons we want to teach to our sons and daughters,” Clinton said.
She covered a range of issues in her roughly 30-minute speech, from the economy and education to the deployment of a half-billion solar panels over the next four years. She encouraged voters to read the details of her plan to add jobs, rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and make college affordable for families.
Clinton noted her plan for a dedicated $25 billion fund to support private nonprofit historically black colleges and universities such as St. Augustine’s.
“This is a crossroads election,” Clinton said, while promoting North Carolina Democrats, gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper and U.S. Senate candidate Deborah Ross. She also had a few words about Trump, who has declined to say whether he would respect the Nov. 8 election results. That “is a threat to democracy,” Clinton said.
“As I traveled across the world, I saw many things that distinguished us from other countries that I visited, but I’ll tell you one thing, the peaceful transfer of power is one of the things that makes America, America, and frankly, it’s one of the things that makes America already great,” she said.
Five Mothers of the Movement – women whose children have been killed in gun violence or police-involved incidents – joined Clinton before heading to another rally in Durham.
She is running “for us,” said Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin.
“There is no excuse, no excuse, for you not to vote and you not to take a family member or a friend,” Fulton said. “It’s important. Your life depends on it.”
Raleigh resident Tara Jones, who watched with fellow St. Augustine’s alumni, said she’s been a Clinton fan since high school. Clinton has the experience to be president, Jones said.
“Now that I’ve been educated and seen how hard she has worked for the country, I’m looking forward to voting, and I’m glad that I can cast my vote for her now,” Jones said. “I’m baffled by the people who still have this question about her ability to lead or about her character.”
Clinton will be more of the same, Republican Sen. Sessions said by phone Sunday afternoon before a State Fair get-out-the-vote event. This election is the last chance for people to address immigration, fix the trade system “and get this country back on track,” he said.
Trump’s positions have been misrepresented, he said.
“I really think that the people are trending toward making a decision in this election based on the direction the two candidates will take the country,” Sessions said.
“If you want to see the legal system strengthened and good judges appointed, if you believe that the trade system is not working effectively, if you believe we should end the lawlessness in immigration, if you think we should be more cautious about what countries we invade and occupy, then clearly, Donald Trump is head and shoulders over Hillary Clinton,” he said.
Trump also will put a stop to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, he said. Clinton helped negotiate the TPP but most recently stated her opposition. Her running mate Tim Kaine said Sunday that they are still opposed to the TPP, but not closed to a major Asian trade agreement.
The Republican National Committee also weighed in Sunday on Clinton’s record.
“From a blatantly strategic flip-flop on TPP that even her own campaign staff questioned to the ever-growing evidence of pay-to-play relationships and conflicts of interest between her State Department and the Clinton Foundation, Hillary Clinton has proven that the only thing North Carolinians can trust her to do is look out for herself,” RNC spokeswoman Kara Carter said.
More campaign visits are planned this week. Trump’s vice presidential running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, will attend a rally Monday in Greensboro, while Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren will be in Chapel Hill on Tuesday. Clinton is planning a stop with first lady Michelle Obama on Thursday in Winston-Salem.