Half the remaining Democratic presidential candidates spoke Thursday at a town hall held by the League of United Latin American Citizens at the College of Southern Nevada campus in North Las Vegas.
Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, businessman Tom Steyer and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., discussed issues with reporters from Telemundo and took questions from the audience. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., took part via live video conference.
The discussions focused on issues affecting the Latin American community, which makes up nearly 30 percent of Nevada’s population. Nevada will be the first true barometer for candidates seeking the support of Latinos and other diverse communities.
The event started around 6 p.m. and concluded around 8:15 p.m.
Here’s what the candidates said:
■ Steyer emphasized his focus on diversity in his campaign. He said that his campaign is composed of 50 percent people of color, 50 percent women and 30 percent members of the LGBTQ community. That, too, is how he says he will structure his administration if elected.
— Economically, Steyer said he hopes to implement a tax plan that would include a 10 percent tax cut for all Americans who make less than $250,000.
■ He said his No. 1 focus is climate change, relying on leadership from “the black and brown communities where people can’t breathe without getting asthma or turn on the tap without getting sick.”
■ “I am somebody who would go in the first day and stop what I consider to be crimes against humanity on the border,” Steyer said. He said that if elected, he plans to decriminalize the border, get rid of the border wall, reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and restructure U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, calling President Donald Trump’s immigration policy “racism by another name.
■ Sanders said health care is a human right, not a privilege, and vowed to implement “Medicare for All” as a single-payer system. Under Medicare for All, Sanders said, nobody would have to pay more than $200 a year for prescription drugs, and everyone would be guaranteed health care regardless of employment status.
— After one audience member accused Sanders of not doing enough to support minority-run businesses, Sanders said he goes out of his way to reach out to minority communities and work with minority-run businesses, while also hiring members of minority communities to work on his campaign.
■ Sanders said he introduced “the most comprehensive climate change proposal ever introduced by any federal candidate.” He said the plan is based on the principles of the Green New Deal and would work to move away from fossil fuels and toward wind, solar and geothermal energy sources. He said billions of dollars in the proposal are set aside to help communities of color because they are hit hardest by pollution and “diseases associated with environmental degradation.”
— Sanders said he would support a binding resolution to help the people of Puerto Rico pursue statehood if they want it. He also said he would “treat the people of Puerto Rico as they should be treated: as citizens of the United States of America.” He said he plans to implement a plan to help rebuild the island, creating new jobs and helping it to recover its economy.
■ Young people are the future, Sanders said, and he wants to listen to and implement the next generation’s ideas. “Your generation is the generation with the energy that we need to help us old people transform this country,” he concluded.
■ When asked about people’s opposition to him based on his sexual orientation, Buttigieg said he is proud of his marriage and is “running to be a president for everybody. I also believe that this country is at its best when we lift up everybody for who we are.”
■ Buttigieg said he trusts the American people to make the decisions that are best for them because the nation cannot be run on a one-size-fits-all basis. He said he hopes to support the people instead of the government, focusing on uniting Americans instead of dividing them.
— He said there are tremendous racial disparities in the war on drugs. He said that incarceration does more harm than the drug possession offenses it is meant to address. If elected, he plans to legalize marijuana, stop incarcerating those found in possession of illegal drugs and expunge the records of those arrested on marijuana-related charges.
■ If elected, Buttigieg vowed to immediately begin uniting families who have been separated at the border. “These family separations are indefensible,” he said.
■ Klobuchar said that she is invested in immigration issues because her family was built on the backs of Swiss immigrants. Her grandfather, she said, sneaked into the country and lived as an alien for years before he was finally granted citizenship. Klobuchar said she supports the DREAM Act and DACA but also pushes for bipartisan immigration reform. “I think a lot of the Republicans do not want to cross Donald Trump right now, but there are a lot of them that know we need to get it done” because “immigrants don’t diminish America; they are America.”
— Bipartisanship is big for Klobuchar. She said she believes that what unites us as a country is bigger than what divides us. She hopes to lead a coalition unifying Democrats, moderate Republicans and Independents to “bring some decency back to the White House.” She said she has a record of working well with Republicans and believes that will help her to unify the nation as president if elected.
■ Klobuchar said she wants to bring in less-expensive drugs from other countries to lower the cost of prescription drugs, especially insulin. She also hopes to have Medicare negotiate lower prices for drugs and cap prescription drug prices. “That would bring in $350 billion to taxpayers over 10 years,” Klobuchar said.
— When an audience member accused her of being hard on people of color and going easy on law enforcement’s use of deadly force in her time as a prosecutor, Klobuchar said she believes there is systematic in the justice system and regrets using grand juries to decide police shooting cases. But, she said, “the African American incarceration rate went down actually 12 percent” in her time as a county attorney in Minnesota.
■ “I believe that if you’re going to have a functioning economy, you have to have shared prosperity,” Klobuchar said. “People have to be a part of that economy.”