SAN DIEGO (CN) — Bill Clinton on Wednesday told hundreds of San Diegans why they should help make him the nation’s first First Gentleman, by voting for his wife in California’s June 7 primary.
The former president’s third rally for his wife in San Diego brought out significantly fewer people than the first two, as the event at Balboa Park was not announced until Tuesday evening. Thousands turned out for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ rally at the San Diego Convention Center in March.
Jane Sandri, a self-described “reformed Republican,” was one of hundreds of Hillary Clinton supporters at the Wednesday event. Sandri said she has not been involved in politics since she was in high school in the ’70s and protested against the Vietnam War. When she read Barack Obama’s book, Sandri said, she switched parties in the 2008 election.
Sandri said she’s for “smaller government” and believes Hillary Clinton’s proposed policies will empower cities and states to enact and enforce their own legislation.
“The conservative movement is out of touch with reality. But we can’t sit back and just think Hillary will win, we need to fight for it,” Sandri said.
Jojo Ola of Carlsbad said she’s been politically involved ever since her Nigerian immigrant father took her to a rally for President George W. Bush as a child. Ola said she’s supported Hillary Clinton since she was a senator in New York, and likes the “fighter in her.”
Joining Ola was her friend Joanne Chua, an undecided voter who just became a naturalized citizen and has yet to register to vote.
While Ola said liked Bernie Sanders’ issues, she said he did not leave much of a mark as senator.
“Until Bernie ran for president, I had never heard of him and I’ve heard of a lot of other senators, like Elizabeth Warren. Why didn’t he introduce bills for free health care while in Senate? He’s all talk, just like Donald Trump,” Ola said.
Lane Hauck, a retiree from a northeast San Diego farming community, was looking forward to hearing a former president speak in person for the first time. He said he Hillary Clinton has the experience and insight needed to protect the country.
“I want her to be the one answering the phone when something erupts. I don’t want someone who’s unpredictable,” Hauck said.
A dozen Sanders supporters dressed in “Feel the Bern” garb stationed themselves by the entrance to the Balboa Park Club. Organizer Jim Boydston said they were celebrating Sanders’ win in Indiana Tuesday night. He said he’s not worried about a contested Democratic convention come July.
“There’s historical precedent. Franklin D. Roosevelt won his first nomination at a contested convention, so why can’t Bernie?” Boydston said.
If Sanders is not nominated, Boydston said, he will support him by write-in ballot or voting for him if he runs on the Independent ticket.
Boydston, who sings with the San Diego Opera Chorus, led Sanders supporters in a song written by a 93-year-old Vermonter.
“We’re on a journey with Bernie, and we’re here to let you know/
That we’re in it to win it, and to the White House he will go/
We will always remember how he helped the ones in need/
He looks out for the little guy against the corporate greed,” the group sang.
Inside the Balboa Park Club, Clinton was introduced by Army veteran Bill York, who said he enlisted in the Army to “fight for American values.”
War is not something a president should take lightly, York said.
“When she or he talks of war, there are real American families at stake,” he said.
San Diego County hosts large Navy, Air Force and Marine bases, and has an enormous population of military retirees. One in three San Diegans has a connection to the military. York said he can’t wait until the day he can say “Madam President.”
Clinton took the stage and spoke of San Diego’s “wonderful diverse population” and biotech industry, which he called the “tomorrow economy.”
Clinton said the “trick to this election” is tapping into the positive things America has going for it, such as the “youngest, most diverse work force in the world.”
Clinton spoke almost exclusively about why his wife is the most qualified candidate to fill President Obama’s shoes. He did not comment on Ted Cruz’s Tuesday announcement that he was dropping out of the Republican race, nor John Kasich’s withdrawal Wednesday, leaving Donald Trump as the Republican nominee in waiting.
The former president attempted to explain why voters have latched on to “unconventional” candidates such as Trump and Sanders.
“When things get out of hand, people get scared and they want a quick answer. But this is a complicated, challenging moment and you need someone who can keep bad things from happening,” Clinton said.
Calling his wife the “most outspoken candidate on not terrorizing moderate, freedom-loving, terror-hating Muslims,” and mentioning the terrorists who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Clinton cautioned: “We are not going to kill our way out of the challenges we face today.”
He touched upon some of his wife’s policies, such as her plan to increase income taxes on Americans who earn more than $1 million a year, saying they “can afford it and should pay it.”
He endorsed his wife’s plan to make college more affordable, and make tuition free “for everyone who really needs it.” Not all students would get a free ride, Clinton said, but allowing college loans to be refinanced would be a big step toward addressing student loan debt, which he called “the most pressing problem.”
“Everyone could move out of their parents’ house,” Clinton said.
After addressing the need for prison reform and releasing nonviolent offenders, and the need for immigration reform, “for many of the same reasons,” Clinton wrapped up his speech by calling for national unity, to “allow us to all rise together.”
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