Sen. Elizabeth Warren Draws Big Crowd In First Campaign Visit To San Diego
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, brought her message of "big structural change" to a crowd of about 8,500 people at Waterfront Park on Thursday in her first San Diego campaign appearance.
The senator from Massachusetts is experiencing a notable rise in national polls, and earlier this week came in first in a poll of California voters. She also picked up the endorsement of state Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego.
"Today, Elizabeth Warren laid out the best labor worker plan I've ever seen in my entire life because, of course, she has a plan for that," Gonzalez, a former union leader, said as she introduced Warren.
Warren started her stump speech with a familiar childhood story. After her father suffered a heart attack and was unable to work, Warren's mother was forced to take a full-time job answering phones at Sears.
"That minimum-wage job saved our house and it saved our family," Warren said.
Warren then gave a history of her personal story: She attended a commuter college in Texas for $50 per semester and became a special education teacher, but was let go after her first year when she became pregnant with her first child.
She eventually attended law school and became a professor, focusing on financial law. She said her work drew her to the question of why America's middle class was being "hollowed out," and why the government in Washington seems to take better care of large corporations than it does everyday people.
"When you see a government that works great for those with big money and isn't working so well for everyone else, that is corruption pure and simple and we need to call it out for what it is," Warren said to cheers from the crowd.
Warren made no mention in her speech of the week’s biggest news: the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. She spoke of the president only when responding to an audience member, who said Trump had divided the country and asked how she would bring people back together.
The senator answered with one of her central policy proposals: A wealth tax on personal fortunes over $50 million. Her plan would capture two cents of every dollar above that threshold, and use the revenue to fund free childcare for families making less than 200 percent of the federal poverty line.
"Not just a majority of Democrats like it, not just a majority of independents like it, but the majority of Republicans like it," she said. "And that's why we're going to win, it's why we're going to make change, and it's how we're going to start bringing this nation back together."
Ly Ung, a voter who traveled from Carlsbad to hear Warren speak, said the senator is among his favorite candidates but that he is still not ready to commit to voting for her. He said he was impressed with Warren's detailed plans, her track record of taking on big corporations and her ability to connect with regular people.
"Like she said today in her speech, she wanted to be a special ed teacher," he said. "She had the opportunity to go beyond that and eventually rose up to the Senate, and now is running for president. And so that to me is the American story."
Christine Lopez, a Warren supporter from La Mesa, said she likes how the senator speaks from the heart.
"She has this energy that is just really contagious," Lopez said. "I felt like I was witnessing something special."
After her speech, Warren started her signature "selfie line" in which she poses for pictures with anyone from the audience who wants one. She also took a handful of questions from reporters, including one about how she would address the homelessness and affordable housing crises that plague San Diego.
"I have a housing plan that would build about 3.2 million new housing units," Warren said. "We need a bigger housing supply in America, and we can do that by making a real federal investment, and yes I have it paid for."
Warren's housing plan would be funded by an increase to the inheritance tax on ultra-wealthy households. She also aims to create a competitive grant program that would incentivize local governments to update zoning laws so more housing could be built.
San Diego is likely to see even more visits from Democratic presidential candidates, as the state's early primary on March 3 attracts more interest in Golden State voters than in previous elections.