Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016 | 1:44 p.m.
Six days before the Nevada caucuses, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders faced off in opposing front-row pews while attending the same church service in Las Vegas on Sunday morning.
At Victory Missionary Baptist Church, one of the largest black churches in the valley, both candidates preached brief messages to members of the congregation. Sanders touched on common refrains, decrying billionaires and railing against mass incarceration, while Clinton touted the progress made by the Affordable Care Act and emphasized her relationship with President Barack Obama.
Clinton arrived to the church early — before the end of the previous service — and spent several minutes posing for pictures and greeting congregation members, including Nevada Sen. Minority Leader Aaron Ford and Rep. John Lewis, both Clinton supporters. Sanders arrived about 45 minutes into the service, sitting in a pew across the room from Clinton.
It was Sanders' campaign that contacted the church first about making an appearance at the service, the church’s pastor, Robert Fowler Sr., said during the service. About an hour into the service, Fowler gave the two candidates a chance to briefly address the congregation.
Sanders, greeted with warm applause from the congregation, took an opportunity to lament how hard Nevada was hit during the Great Recession.
“This state was decimated,” Sanders said. “We have made great progress, but much more needs to be done.”
He spent a portion of his speech touching on mass incarceration to the repeated, enthusiastic amens of congregation members.
“We cannot as a nation turn our back on the reality that we have more people in jail today,” Sanders said — punctuated by an “amen” — “than any other country on Earth.”
Clinton opened her speech by quoting the book of Psalms: "This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” The congregation responded with a chorus of thunderous applause.
Both candidates praised Obama in their speeches, with Sanders saying the country has made “enormous progress” under Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, and Clinton pushing to “build on the progress” Obama has made.
During her speech, Clinton took another oblique shot at Sanders, as she did during the last Democratic debate, in which she implied Sanders was a single-issue candidate.
"I am not a single-issue candidate, and this is not a single-issue country,” she said.
At the end of the service, Fowler prayed for the two candidates.
“Whichever candidate becomes president, unite this country behind them,” he said.
Fowler said last week that he will be caucusing for Clinton on Saturday.
During the service, several children gave short presentations about black men and women in honor of Black History Month. Children sang familiar hymns such as “How Great Thou Art” at the opening of the service, and a woman praise danced at the end of their speeches.
Today, Sanders also rallied supporters at Bonanza High School, while Clinton will attend a rally at Sun City Summerlin later tonight.