Sanders helps Clinton reach out to young voters in North Carolina

Hillary Clinton returned to North Carolina on Thursday for two appearances aimed at reaching young voters — a goal underlined when Sen. Bernie Sanders and musician Pharrell Williams joined her at the former Walnut Creek Amphitheatre in Raleigh.

Williams is a popular performer, and the backbone of Sanders’ Democratic primary campaign was made up of millennials. Polls show many young people rejecting either major party, so at this late stage, they have become a valuable commodity in a race that has tightened since Clinton’s email controversy re-erupted.

Ceasar Addy, a 28-year-old retail manager from Raleigh, said Clinton is talking about unity while Trump focuses on “drawing a wedge” between people.

Addy said Clinton talks about issues of interest to millennials, including keeping the health-care system while reforming it and “creating jobs for people and a better relationship with the outside world.”

The nighttime rally that drew more than 5,000 people to the outdoor venue in Raleigh came after Clinton’s afternoon appearance at Pitt Community College in Winterville.

There, Clinton said there would be a danger in a Trump presidency for African-American communities. Winterville has a population of fewer than 10,000, and nearly 65 percent of its residents are white and more than 32 percent are black.

“Do any of us have a place in Trump’s America?” Clinton asked a crowd of about 1,800 at the community college.

She noted that Trump had been accused of housing discrimination at his real estate properties in the past and had continued to declare the guilt of the Central Park Five, five black and Hispanic men, on assault and rape allegations, despite DNA evidence that exonerated them.

Trump “has spent this entire campaign offering a dog whistle to his most hateful supporters,” Clinton said, citing his tweets and endorsement by the Ku Klux Klan’s newspaper, before outlining facets of her own economic plan, including taxing the wealthy and making college more affordable.

“You deserve a candidate you can vote for, not just vote against,” Clinton said.

Voting rights touted

In between public events, Clinton and Williams made a surprise visit to N.C. Central University in Durham.

In Raleigh, Clinton resumed her criticism of Trump and also went after North Carolina’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory over voting rights.

“Every social movement, every economic advance has only come about because people were willing to work and sacrifice and keep pushing forward in the face of adversity,” Clinton said. “It’s not easy. There are still powerful interests trying to push us back and push us down.

“It is now our turn to stand up to people like your governor and your legislature who wanted to shut you down and push you back.”

Republican lawmakers and McCrory say a 2013 law requiring photo ID and reducing voting options was a sensible step to prevent fraud. But federal appellate judges struck down the law, saying it targeted African-Americans.

Sanders reprised many of his familiar campaign themes, including voting rights.

“We have cowardly Republican governors all over this country trying to suppress the votes,” Sanders said. “... I say to those governors, if you don’t have the guts to participate in a free, open and fair election get out of politics and get another job.”

Aaron Foster, 18, said he supported Sanders in the primary but voted enthusiastically for Clinton, who has a plan to make state colleges and universities tuition-free to families with incomes of $125,000 or less. “That’s what millenials like me want to hear,” said the N.C. State student from Greenville.

Rallies across NC

Kara Carter, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, used the youth-vote gambit to criticize her.

“Hillary Clinton’s last-ditch effort to galvanize millenials continues as she visits North Carolina with Bernie Sanders and Pharrell Williams,” Carter said in a statement issued earlier in the day. “It’s clear Hillary Clinton’s incapable of rallying young voters around her scandal-ridden candidacy and with five days to go, this visit will do little to conjure up enthusiasm for a dishonest candidate under FBI investigation.”

Thursday’s rallies in North Carolina marked the first time Clinton has been in this state since last Friday, when the head of the FBI said that the agency was looking at newly discovered messages to determine if classified material was mishandled while she was secretary of state.

On Thursday, the State Department released 1,280 additional pages of Clinton’s emails, and said more would be released Friday.

Clinton and Trump have amplified their campaigning in this state.

Trump campaigned in Concord and Selma on Thursday. On Friday, President Barack Obama will campaign for Clinton in Fayetteville and Charlotte, and GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence in Greenville.

On Saturday, Trump is in Wilmington while Chelsea Clinton visits Elizabeth City, Charlotte and Asheville. On Sunday, Jon Bon Jovi will campaign for Clinton in Charlotte.

Trump returns to Raleigh on Monday before both candidates return to New York for events on Tuesday.

Early voting up

In Raleigh, people from around the state lined up outside the Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek. In the crowd were Clinton’s biggest supporters, volunteers and people who had already voted for her.

Tammy Kantenwein, 51, and her daughter Vanessa, 28, both Goldsboro residents, said they were becoming a little concerned about the outcome.

Both predicted Clinton will win.

“I think it’s going to be OK,” said Tammy Kantenwein, a Wayne County schools employee. “I think people know what’s best for our country and know what’s at stake and what this election means.”

She said the election outcome will affect the future of women’s rights.

“Having a daughter and what her rights will be — that means a lot to me,” she said.

More people have voted during the state’s early voting period this year than they did at this point in 2016. But African-American turnout is below 2012 levels.

Dr. Ronald Williams of Wilson, who said he’s working with the Democratic National Committee as a poll monitor, said the pace of African-Americans voting has picked up in the last few days. Williams said he will be canvassing over the weekend and working the phones to encourage voters to get to the polls.

Craig Jarvis: 919-829-4576, @CraigJ_NandO

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer