Government

Presidential candidates take on Independence for Independence Day

3 Democrats vying for 2020 presidential election appear in parade

INDEPENDENCE — An Independence Day parade in a town appropriately named Independence became a march of presidential politics as three Democratic candidates and contingents for others — including incumbent Donald Trump — plied the spectators.

Dozens of supporters of former Vice President Joe Biden and of former Texas Rep. Beto gathered in the early hours of the morning to walk in the parade with their candidate. Both hopefuls met and spoke with people who crowded the route.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also walked the route, placed between Biden and O’Rourke.

A strong group of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren supporters chanted things like “L-I-Z, she’s got a plan for me!” and “It’s time for a woman in the White House!” — prompting some people watching to wonder if Warren had made a surprise appearance in the parade.

There also were spectators who booed the candidates as they walked past, and others who shouted their support for Republican President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. A float supporting the president was farther down the line of parade entries.

Biden led the line of candidates, jogging back and forth to talk to people sitting along the sidewalks. A chorus of “Let’s go Joe!” greeted him as he arrived at the route to meet and take selfies with his supporters.

Biden used the opportunity to try to re-litigate last week’s nationally televised debate, where California Sen. Kamala Harris took him to task for not having supported federally forced busing to desegregate schools. After the skirmish, poll numbers for Biden slipped and support for Harris grew.

“She’s a good person,” Biden about Harris after the parade. “She’s smart as can be, and she feels strongly. It came out of nowhere. It didn’t seem to be consistent with anything I had been accused of before.”

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He pointed out that he’s been supportive of voluntary busing. But he said the topic the Democrats should be discussing is giving everyone a quality education.

When asked about his plans for the next debate, Biden said he’s just going to answer the questions asked of him, adding that some things can get distorted in such short speaking times.

“If you notice, I’m the guy everyone’s talking about. ... I’m not going to go back and talk about the record of anyone from 10, 20, 30 years ago. There’s a lot out there that a lot of people would like to do differently than they did, but everything is lost in context as well.”

Biden also talked about health care coverage, saying he wants to “eliminate all the changes that this administration made trying to kill Obamacare” and continue building on the Affordable Care Act’s foundation he and President Barack Obama created.

“I oppose any Republican that tries to take down Obamacare, and I oppose Democrats that try to take it. It’s a mistake,” he said.

O’Rourke came to the parade with his wife and children and asked his supporters — many of whom spent the morning screaming, “You Beto believe it!” and “All people, no PACs!” — if they were ready to give as much candy as possible to the kids watching the parade. He carried one of his sons on his shoulders as he passed out treats and met with people.

O’Rourke said he’s grateful for all the support he’s seen, and he gave a special mention to volunteers who came from north Texas to walk in the parade with him.

“The grass roots energy, the willingness to defy politics as usual and develop a new kind of politics that based on the people and not PACs or corporations, to me that’s really exciting,” he said.

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O’Rourke noted that the field for the Democratic nomination is both distinguished and crowded, and he wants to continue to focus on what sets him apart from the rest of the pack.

“We have bold, ambitious policy proposals that are informed by the people we have met along the way, and I want to make sure that we’re reflecting that in our comments during the debate,” he said.

He also told people that he has seen his fundraising results, which he was happy with and will be released soon.

l Comments: kayli.reese@thegazette.com

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