In her first campaign rally in central Indiana on Sunday, Hillary Clinton promised to promote manufacturing, unify communities and support Indiana women in defending their rights to their governor.
In the hot, crowded Douglass Park Gymnasium on 25th Street in Indianapolis, the Democratic front-runner signaled a confident focus beyond Tuesday’s Indiana primaries and into the general election.
“There is no more consequential election facing our country than this 2016 presidential election,” Clinton said to the audience of about 750 people.
The crowd reflected the nearby diverse, working-class neighborhood with a substantial African-American community.
A man wearing a Jewish yamaka stood in the audience near a Muslim woman wearing a hijab. Senior citizens, IU students and children alike waved American flags behind Clinton on the stage, chanting “I’m with her,” before she came on stage.
This is the second time Clinton has visited Indiana this week. She toured steel mills in Hammond and Mishawaka in the northeast part of the state Tuesday. Her husband, Bill, campaigned in multiple Indiana cities Saturday, and her daughter, Chelsea, visited Indianapolis on Friday.
Former Indiana Gov. Evan Bayh, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and Democratic Rep. André Carson, D-7th, all provided introductions prior to Clinton’s speech.
“You’re looking at history in the making,” Carson said to a roaring applause.
After dominating several East Coast primaries, Clinton’s delegate count has climbed to 2,165, with Bernie Sanders at 1,357, according to the Associated Press.
With her current count, Clinton is only 218 delegates away from winning the Democratic nomination.
Ninety-two delegates are up for grabs in Indiana.
Sanders has invested $1.6 million into paid advertising in Indiana, while Clinton has not spent any money on paid media, according to the Associated Press.
In her speech, Clinton touted Indiana’s economy, where nearly one in five jobs are in the manufacturing industry, the highest proportion in the country, she said.
She emphasized the need to tackle the opioid and heroin crisis — an issue of particular importance in Indiana.
Clinton said she and her husband have lost three friends’ children to opioid-related deaths.
“It is ripping the heart out of families and communities,” Clinton said.
“You got that right!” one woman yelled from the stage.
She mentioned her plans to create debt-free college tuition.
“If you can refinance your mortgage, refinance your car payment, you ought to be able to refinance your student debt,” Clinton said.
She noted this concept was of equal importance to Bernie Sanders.
“My plan is more likely to actually achieve that goal,” Clinton said.
Two IU seniors, Mohammad Issa and former IU Student Association President Andy Braden, made the drive from Bloomington to attend Sunday’s rally.
“It’s a really good time to be involved in politics in Indiana,” Braden said.
Clinton also promised to defend Planned Parenthood and the people in Indiana facing what she called an assault on their rights.
“I will support the women across this state standing up against this governor and this legislature,” Clinton said.
She criticized the “reckless, dangerous talk” from Republican candidates, such as Donald Trump’s comments about banning Muslims from the country and Ted Cruz’s desire to patrol majority Muslim communities.
“Enough! Enough!” Clinton said. “It’s not only offensive, it’s dangerous.”
Among the rally attendees were a number of people who said they have been supporting Clinton since the 2008 election or even since she was first lady.
Indianapolis resident Deborah Jackson walked into the gymnasium with a framed letter and photograph from Bill and Hillary from 1998.
Delores Smith, a 76-year-old Indianapolis resident, has been an active volunteer in the Clinton campaign and waited outside the gymnasium wearing a pink hat with more than a dozen pins for the Clintons and other previous Democratic candidates.
She stood in line with her daughter and 2-year-old granddaughter, Bianca, who was jumping up and down with red, white and blue bows in her hair.
“I’m here for her,” Smith said, gesturing at her granddaughter.
Closing her speech, Clinton said America’s best years are still ahead.
“If you go out and vote for me I will stand up and fight for you, through this campaign and into the White House,” Clinton said.
The intro music to “Fight Song” played as she walked off the stage and through the crowd.
One of the rally attendees who got to shake hands with Clinton was 11-year-old Indianapolis resident Alasha Kyner.
“I was so happy,” Kyner said. “She is my hero and shows me not only a man can become president.”
She hugged her dad as she left the gymnasium, thanking him for bringing her to the rally.
“I’m never washing this hand again,” Kyner said.
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