Amy Klobuchar vows to bridge rural-urban divide during first presidential campaign stop

Crowds turned out to support U..S Sen. Amy Klobuchar as she kicked off her campaign for President of the United States, Sunday, Feb. 10, in Boom Island Park, Minneapolis. Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press
Crowds turned out to support U..S Sen. Amy Klobuchar as she kicked off her campaign for President of the United States, Sunday, Feb. 10, in Boom Island Park, Minneapolis. Scott Takushi / Pioneer PressScott Takushi / Pioneer Press

In the first stop of her presidential campaign, Minnesota’s U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar went where Hillary Clinton came up short: Wisconsin.

More than 300 people packed into a coffee bar and bicycle repair shop in Eau Claire to hear from the self-proclaimed “senator next door.” The importance of Wisconsin was not lost on Klobuchar, who told the crowd she will campaign in places that Democrats “didn’t focus on enough in the last few years.”

Clinton chose to not visit Wisconsin during the fall 2016 general election and ended up losing it by less than one point.

“That was one of the points I wanted to make by coming to Eau Claire. Eau Claire is a place of a great university and education … It is also (right) in the middle of a rural area,” Klobuchar said.

Klobuchar drew cheers as she touted her Wisconsin roots throughout the speech; she recalled how her grandparents migrated from Switzerland and became cheese makers in Racine, Wis.

A key theme of her speech centered on bridging the divide between rural and urban communities. She vowed that every household in America would have rural broadband by 2022 if she is elected.

She also voiced support for holding the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee and said she hopes to build on Democratic gains made in the state this past election.

“No one ever thought that the Democrats were going to be able to defeat Gov. (Scott) Walker, but we did. And we did it in a smart Wisconsin way with a grassroots campaign … and we can do it in the presidential as well,” Klobuchar said.

Klobuchar will make stops in Iowa on Sunday and New Hampshire on Monday. She will take questions from New Hampshire residents during a live CNN town hall on Monday night.

ON KEY ISSUES

Klobuchar stressed several key issues during her speech. Here are some highlights:

On climate change: “This last year was the fourth hottest year in the history of recording hottest years … What has President Trump done? He has gone backwards, instead of the Wisconsin state motto that is ‘Forward’,” she said. On day one as president, I will put us back into the international climate change (agreement).”

On the economy and health care: “We still aren’t where we need to be for so many people,” Klobuchar said, pointing to high health care premiums and soaring costs of prescription drugs. “The pharma companies think they own Washington, but they don’t own me.”

On Trump declaring a national emergency to build a border wall: “When you look at the declaration of national emergencies in the past, it has been for actual national emergencies. It has been for things like hurricanes, and firefighters and earthquakes and things like that. That’s the first answer. The second one is, where is he going to get this money? He’s going to take it from other security priorities and disaster priorities for our country.”

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Eau Claire residents BJ Hollars and Meredith Ball were there on a “fact-finding mission.” They took their kids to scout out Klobuchar.

“I don’t know, it’s so early. I like her,” Ball said.

Eau Claire resident Teri Piper Thompson was impressed by Klobuchar’s “down-to-earth” personality. She said the senator’s positions on climate change, health care and guns aligned with her own.

“I have a really good feeling about her. … She’s probably my number one in the field of Democrats right now,” Piper Thompson said, noting she is also waiting to see if former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke jumps into the race.

Her son, 16-year-old Charlie Thompson, posed for a photo with Klobuchar after the speech. He said he was excited to see a candidate in his hometown.

“I’ve grown up here, I’ve lived here all my life. It’s good to see a candidate who actually cares about the things that affect me,” he said.