Four presidential candidates rallied for votes in Eau Claire

Eau Claire hosted Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz over the weekend

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Four presidential candidates rallied for votes in Eau Claire

Photo by Lauren French

Photo by Lauren French

Photo by Lauren French

Story by Andee Erickson, Lauren French, and Thomas Hensen

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In the first of four visits from presidential hopefuls this weekend, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders rallied for votes Saturday morning on the UW-Eau Claire campus and garnered an audience of over 3,000 people.

After an introduction from Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Sanders promised a packed Zorn Arena audience stronger equality, better environmental protection and an end to U.S. involvement in Iraq. In preparation for the April 5 primary, the Vermont senator urged audience members to show up to the polls.

“Let us have the largest voter turnout in Wisconsin primary history,” Sanders said to the crowd, “and let us let the world know that Wisconsin is prepared to go forward with a political revolution.”

Before the event started, shivering rally-goers waited for hours in a line that extended to the top of the campus hill as an April snowstorm flurried around them.

Brett Atkinson, an Eau Claire native and current resident, said seeing Sanders speak was worth the cold weather and hours-long wait.

“I believe in pretty much everything (Sanders) believes in,” Atkinson said. “He wants peace in the world and I just think there’s a lot of hate coming from the Republican side.”

In his speech, Sanders said the top 1/10 of the 1 percent in the U.S controls as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. In order to create an economy that works for everyone, Sanders said the middle class can’t pay more taxes to subsidize the wealthy.

He also said youth unemployment is “off the chart,” and wants to invest in young people to ensure they’re receiving the quality education and jobs they need.

Concerning environmental issues in the country and world-over, Sanders said a tax on carbon emissions is necessary to address the crisis of climate change, which is included in the comprehensive climate legislation he introduced to Senate.

Sanders said he will remain a consistent opposer of offshore drilling as well as fracking. He promised to introduce legislation to end fossil fuel extraction on public lands, while also taking on the fossil fuel industry more aggressively.

“Their short-term profits are not more than the future of our country,” Sanders said.

 

Sanders voted against the war in Iraq and said the war is “the worst foreign policy mistake of the modern history of our country.”

Elaborating on his own foreign policy, Sanders said Muslim troops on the ground in Iraq should defeat ISIS. If elected, he promised to keep the U.S. from getting involved in perpetual warfare.

Sanders was the only candidate to rally on campus, but he wasn’t alone in his visit to Eau Claire. Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Donald Trump all trekked to the city within 48 hours of one another.

 

Clinton

To an audience of more than 1,000 people Saturday at the Lismore Hotel, Hillary Clinton said if given the opportunity she wants to help the people of Wisconsin defeat Gov. Scott Walker.

“I have been just so disheartened to see the dismantling of so many pieces of what made Wisconsin not just a great state to live in and a great state to work in,” Clinton said, “but an example for so many others.”

After an introduction from Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Clinton said she intends to knock down economic barriers, raise minimum wage and create more jobs with rising incomes.

Investing in clean energy and making it the highest priority of the nation will cater to this plan, Clinton said, as well as taxing businesses that choose to move and “abandon” the community.

In order to make college affordable and debt free, Clinton said free college should be for the lower and middle classes. She also promised to refinance student debt and get the interest rate down.  

Clinton said she will defend the Affordable Care Act, Planned Parenthood, marriage equality, voting rights, unions, people with disabilities, immigrants and gun safety.

 

Donald Trump

In a rally held at Eau Claire Memorial high school Saturday night, Republican candidate Donald Trump fired shots at various people and furthered his criticism of NATO.

Trump is trailing Ted Cruz by as much as 10 points in some polls.

In addition to calling Cruz “Lying Ted,” Trump  called Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton a “disaster” and described President Obama as a “baby” and incompetent for poorly handling the Iran nuclear pact.

In the week leading up to the rally, Trump criticized NATO and called for the U.S. to lessen its role within the organization. Trump said there are too many other countries in NATO taking advantage of the benefits, but not pulling their own weight. On Saturday night, Trump called NATO “obsolete” and said the U.S. is being taken advantage of by paying 73 percent of the funding that comes from NATO member countries.

 

Ted Cruz

In the last rally of the weekend, GOP candidate Ted Cruz told a crowd of supporters Sunday the election comes down to jobs, freedom and security.

The Texas senator spoke to a crowd of about 1,000 people at The Florian Gardens after introductions from conservative radio host Vicki McKenna, Utah senator Mike Lee, and former GOP presidential candidates Carly Fiorina and Walker.

Cruz told the crowd he is the only candidate who could possibly ensure a GOP presidency. He said a large portion of the GOP party realize that nominating Trump for the presidency would be a “disaster.”

“Nominating Donald is a gift-wrapped present to Hillary Clinton and the Democrats,” Cruz warned as a rallygoer yelled, “Dump Trump!”
Polls for the Presidential Primary are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. On-campus residents will cast ballots in the Davies Center.