A small but spirited audience filled a boardroom at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada on Wednesday with cheers and groans for the first batch of Democratic presidential hopefuls to hit the national debate stage.
Most of the dozen or so people who huddled around a large TV were members of the Stonewall Democratic Club of Southern Nevada, which recently celebrated its fourth anniversary as a chartered club for LGBTQ Democrats and allies. A few state and local Democratic operatives mixed with club members to form a vocal audience at the downtown Las Vegas event.
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro was cheered for his spirited answers and subsequent prodding of fellow candidates on the issue of immigration.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota was vigorously applauded for her jab at President Donald Trump “conducting foreign policy in a bathrobe at 5 a.m.” Both Klobuchar and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker were praised for their stances on gun control.
Some in the group groaned at former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, lamenting that he does not answer the questions posed. Others wondered aloud why former Maryland Rep. John Delaney was even on the stage.
Donna West, chair of the Clark County Democratic Party, said she must remain neutral in public on the large Democratic field. But she felt Klobuchar impressed with well-thought-out plans, and she said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio surprised her with his ability to interject with strong points.
West said she hopes Nevada voters will keep an open mind after the first of 12 such debates concludes Thursday night. Many of these candidates, she noted, can be seen in the flesh in Nevada on any given week.
Jake Marko, the activism and outreach coordinator for the Stonewall Democrats, has already made up his mind. He wore a cap with a pride flag on one side and a button for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on the other.
Sanders allegiance aside, Marko said he was impressed with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who at one point during the debate was asked to explain her previous anti-LGBTQ statements — to a muted response from the Stonewall members in this particular room.
“Both showed that they have what it takes,” Marko said, adding that, like West, he too was positively surprised by de Blasio.
After the debate, the group watched a video sent to them by Warren, who sits in the top five in most polls and who was widely considered the strongest candidate in this first group going into Wednesday’s debate.
In the video, Warren congratulated the club on its anniversary and pledged to fight for all LGBTQ people going forward.
“Dream big. Fight hard. And let’s do this,” Warren said to close the video.