Las Vegas Sun

October 1, 2023

Democrats back to the battle

Unions, Clinton’s and Obama’s teams get into it

John Edwards on Jan. 16, 2008

Leila Navidi

Supporters and journalists surround John Edwards during an appearance Wednesday at the Steelworkers union hall in Henderson. The union has endorsed the former senator from North Carolina.

Click to enlarge photo

Sen. Barack Obama greets supporter Renee Wood after holding a town hall meeting in Henderson. Obama and his two major rivals are crisscrossing Nevada as the state counts down to its caucuses.

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Sen. Hillary Clinton takes questions from reporters after a discussion Wednesday at UNLV about the proposed nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain. Clinton and her Democratic rivals all oppose it.

Hanging out at the debate

Not everything surrounding the Democratic debate happened inside Cashman Center Tuesday night. In fact, supporters for all three top Democrats, as well as a healthy segment of Dennis Kucinich backers, vocalized their thoughts about the debate inside and the 2008 presidential race. (En Español: La gente y el debate)

(Sun new media intern Jenna Kohler contributed to this report.)

En Espanol: La gente y el debate

Un video tomado en el debate entre los candidatos Democratas el martes, 15 de enero.

Outside Support

Some of the most interesting sights and sounds of the Democratic presidential debate didn't come from Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, or Barack Obama on the inside of the Cashman Center. Instead the trio's supporters, along with a large legion of Dennis Kucinich backers, made their views, votes, and vocals known on the outside.

MSNBC Debate Spin Room Reaction

Democratic campaign leaders put their spin on the debate. (En Espanol: Reacción al Debate de MSNBC)

You Won't See This on TV

After an initial invitation, followed by an exclusion, a lawsuit and an appeal, MSNBC successfully barred Dennis Kucinich from the Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas.

(Sun new media intern Jenna Kohler contributed to this report.)

Audio Clip

  • Rodney Slater, Secretary of Transportation during Bill Clinton's administration, talks about Hillary Clinton's view on aiding minorities

Audio Clip

  • David Bonior, John Edwards' national campaign manager, talks about Edwards' stance on immigration

Audio Clip

  • Sheila Leslie, Nevada assemblywoman, talks about Barack Obama's opinion on education for minorities

Jon Ralston's analysis

A day after a debate of mostly warm feelings and happy talk, the fight to win Nevada’s Democratic caucus turned intense again Wednesday, with the campaign of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton acting as the aggressor on many fronts.

A Clinton policy aide hosted a call to attack her chief opponent, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, on health care and Clinton backers pushed a story claiming that the Culinary Union intimidated its members to get them to support Obama, whom the union endorsed last week. The alleged victim of the one incident cited, however, later told the Sun the perceived pressure may have been a misunderstanding.

On the other side, the Culinary continued to mobilize on Obama’s behalf and has questioned whether a Clinton-affiliated rival union is abiding by campaign finance law. The 60,000-member Culinary Union attacked Clinton in fliers on immigration, the Iraq war and labor issues.

The renewed engagement between the two came just hours after Obama and Clinton conceded during the debate that their campaigns and supporters had been overzealous, especially on the issue of race. The candidates pledged to do better.

As their campaigns skirmished, the candidates themselves followed up Tuesday’s debate with Wednesday events to win over last minute fence–sitters before leaving for elsewhere.

Clinton focused on the proposed repository for nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in a discussion with academics and activists at UNLV in the morning.

She reiterated her opposition to the nuclear waste site echoed by her Democratic rivals and tried to paint herself as the candidate with the strongest environmental record. She touted her plan to fund alternative energies, and blasted the Bush administration for sidelining scientific research that doesn’t support its political agenda.

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards arrived in Las Vegas from Reno on Wednesday, and was soon greeted by 70 union volunteers at the United Steel Worker’s Union hall in Henderson. He’s been endorsed by the union, which has 3,100 members in the state. Edwards held several events in the area, after drawing more than 1,000 people at his Reno rally.

Obama spoke at the Henderson Convention Center to several hundred supporters and undecideds, many of whom began lining up two hours early to get in. Obama took questions after his stump speech.

On health care, he said, “Both Clinton and Edwards have proposed good health care plans,” and either of them would be “a vast improvement over the system we have now.”

Obama returned to a theme of his campaign, that he is the wise conciliator who can bring warring parties together: “I respect that Sen. Clinton and President Clinton tried to get health care fixed in 1993. But they went about it the wrong way. They went behind closed doors and tried to do it themselves.”

Later, a Clinton aide attacked the Obama health plan as leaving out 15 million Americans because it includes no mandate that every person obtain health insurance.

The Obama camp has responded that Clinton hasn’t sufficiently laid out enforcement mechanisms that would give the mandate any teeth, and so it is meaningless. By not including an individual mandate, Obama backers say, his plan would have a better chance of passing a Congress wary of forcing Americans to buy something they don’t want.

A Clinton mailer accused Obama of favoring a big tax increase. The increase would be levied only on the wealthy and would be used to shore up the finances of Social Security, Obama countered.

Clinton backers weren’t the only ones making a forceful argument.

The Culinary sent out another tough flier. It accuses Clinton of taking money from union bete noire Station Casinos and of double talk on immigration, and notes her vote for the Iraq war authorization. The flier also accuses the Clinton campaign of attempting to block union members from voting.

The charge relates to a lawsuit filed by a group with Clinton ties that seeks to shut down special caucus sites on the Las Vegas Strip. The case goes before a judge today.

The plaintiffs, which include the teachers union, say the Strip caucus sites give disproportionate influence to the Culinary. Caucus rules allow anyone who works within 2.5 miles of the special sites union or nonunion to attend a caucus there.

The Culinary Union rolled out an aggressive field program months ago, promoting solidarity on caucus day, and has been dispatching its team of 200 organizers into the streets and into Strip casinos to lock down support for Obama.

Clinton is getting help from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The union has split Nevada into 11 regions and deployed 125 paid employees in a member-to-member outreach effort, said Larry Scanlon, AFSCME’s national political director. It bused another 100 members into Nevada from California over the weekend to canvass and make phone calls. That effort, Scanlon said, was also aimed solely at members. By law, the union can advocate only to its members, not the public.

Culinary officials have questioned why AFSCME would need that many workers to reach just 3,000-some members here.

“I’m not going to worry about other people criticizing or questioning our program,” Scanlon said. “We’re going to work like hell to get our favorite candidate nominated and elected in November.”

AFSCME supports the at-large caucus lawsuit, and Scanlon said the union has been pushing the state Democratic Party to allow AFSCME members to act as election monitors at the Strip sites.

The New York Times reported Sunday that AFSCME planned to spend $214,000 money from its Political Action Committee and so can be spent freely on Nevada TV ads.

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