Washington County Democratic Party hosts presidential campaign forum

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated Feb 12, 2020 at 10:41 PM

With a crowd of about three dozen party faithful on hand to listen and question representatives of six of the candidates vying for their nomination, the Washington County Democratic Party hosted a presidential candidates campaign forum Wednesday night in Jonesborough.

Coinciding with Wednesday’s start of the early voting in Tennessee’s March 3 primary elections, the forum featured rallying words from local campaign workers for candidates Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

County Party Chairwoman Kate Craig opened the forum by pointing to the importance of the Nov. 3 election, the opportunity to remove “somebody in the White House we definitely do not want to be there” and a rallying call for Democratic voters to “flip that seat.”

An obviously disappointed campaigner for Andrew Yang, who dropped out of the race on Tuesday, Emily Reitenauer, spoke first. Reitenauer urged the Democrats to support the candidate they believe can best heal the pain being experienced in the country that she said President Donald Trump tapped into and expanded on. “Donald Trump is not the heart of our problem. He is the symptom,” she said.

Mark Siegel, a volunteer for the Joe Biden campaign, said he retired from an administrative law judge in order to help remove Trump from office. Siegel said his quest began with two key first steps, finding the best candidate and finding the candidate most capable of defeating Trump. He said Biden filled the bill on both counts.

“Joe Biden is fighting for the soul of America. He knows and he understands we cannot have another term of Donald Trump and end up with the America we have come to know,” he said.

“I think we will see him reemerge here, hopefully in South Carolina and Nevada, and hopefully on Super Tuesday,” Siege said of Biden’s fifth-place finish in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary election.

June Jones, with the Mike Bloomberg campaign, told the group Bloomberg will be opening a campaign office near the Kroger on West State of Franklin Road in Johnson City at noon on Saturday and that she hoped to see them there.

She said the Johnson City campaign office will be one of more than 30 Bloomberg offices across Tennessee and part of campaign infrastructure spanning 40 states. Jones noted that Bloomberg has pledged to keep 400 campaign staff members employed through the election, no matter who is the Democratic nominee.

Listing his accomplishments during his three terms as mayor of New York City, Jones said, “Bloomberg is a doer. Everything he says he’ll do, he does. He has a big bold plan. He knows what he is doing and he is doing it.”

Speaking for the Pete Buttigieg campaign, Suzanne Emberton said, in a political climate plagued by bullying, divisiveness and meanness, Buttigieg has built his campaign on values like respect, kindness and joy.

“He has plans for veterans, plans for LBGTQ. ... It is possible that we could have a gay president,” Emberton said.

For the Amy Klobuchar campaign, Melissa Fiero said Klobuchar is a pragmatic and progressive candidate who knows how to reach across the aisle to pass legislation and has been ranked by one study group as the most effective Democrat in the Senate. “That’s what we need,” she said.

For Bernie Sanders, Connor McClelland said Sanders electability is evidenced by the candidate receiving 43 percent of the non-white vote in Iowa and 32 percent of the non-white vote in New Hampshire and a head-to-head polling lead over Turmp of more than 10 percent.

He said Sanders’ vision for the country, like that of Democ5atic presidents who have made a difference in the lives of Americans, is one of “political revolution.”

For the Elizabeth Warren campaign, Ethan Cott said Warren is a corruption fighter out to defeat the most-corrupt man ever elected to White House. And he said her programs are designed to level the playing field for everyone.

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