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Democratic candidates talk guns, health care, polls in Las Vegas

Four Democrats vying for the 2020 nomination returned to Las Vegas Wednesday to address the annual meeting of the Nevada American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, held at the Flamingo hotel-casino.

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and California Sen. Kamala Harris each spoke at the event, which was closed to the news media. But after their remarks, candidates answered questions from the news media.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar

— Gun violence: Klobuchar held a news conference prior to the event focused solely on gun violence featuring local advocates and leaders, including Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo and Clark County Democratic Party Chairwoman Donna West.

— Pressure: Klobuchar asked the public to keep the pressure on President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate to pass common sense gun safety laws, saying Trump is hoping to wait out the outrage over a skein of recent mass shootings.

— Nevada as a leader: She praised Nevada’s work in the 2019 Legislature to ban bump stocks and enact a so-called red flag law, but she said federal laws must be changed to make a real impact.

Sen. Cory Booker

— Poll worries?: Booker parried questions on his low position in various national polls by noting former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, as well as 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry, were all well behind in the polls at this point in their campaigns.

— Tough crowd: A reporter asked Booker why he hadn’t campaigned more in Nevada. Booker, whose mother lives in Las Vegas, said he had been in Nevada more than any other candidate in the past five years.

Gun violence and economics: Booker said no other candidate has bolder plans to deal with economic inequality and gun violence — two key issues facing Nevada.

Former HUD secretary Julian Castro

— Unions, unions, unions: Castro summarized his statements made to the closed-door union group, saying the country faces widespread wealth and income inequality that can be combated by the good wages and benefits offered by labor unions.

Recession?: Asked if he believed the country could be headed for a recession, Castro said it’s possible and placed the blame on Trump: “Donald Trump is catching up to the economy.”

— Gun violence: Castro stressed his plan to combat gun violence also included increased funding for the investigation of extremist groups, particularly white nationalists.

Republican response

Trump Victory spokeswoman Samantha Zager: “It would be wise to ask the 2020 Democrats addressing the AFL-CIO Convention today: How can you look union workers in the eye and say you support them when your agenda would destroy their jobs and make their health plans illegal?”

Contact Rory Appleton at rappleton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0276. Follow @RoryDoesPhonics on Twitter.

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