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Hillary Clinton Blasts State Republicans At Durham Rally

Congressman GK Butterfield poses with Hillary Clinton.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Rep. George Butterfield, D-N.C., wave to the crowd after speaking at a campaign event at Hillside High School in Durham, N.C., Thursday, March 10, 2016.

Hillary Clinton spoke to an audience of more than 1,500 at Hillside High School in Durham, asking for their votes in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. Many in the crowd sported sunburns as they packed into the hot gymnasium—battle scars from the hours-long line they waited in to hear Clinton speak.
Clinton began with what’s become the rallying cry for her campaign.

“I’m running for president to knock down every barrier that stands in your way to get ahead and stay ahead," she said.

She promised her support for more job creation, for raising the minimum wage, equalizing pay for women and defending Obamacare.

And then Clinton set her sights on the state’s Republican Party and the downward trend in North Carolina’s per-pupil education funding.

"Thousands of teachers who literally cannot make ends meet are leaving the profession," Clinton said. "We watch your Republican governor and legislature slowly eroding the base for public education in this state."

Students in the Hillside dance team performed before Clinton took the stage.
Credit Jess Clark
Students in the Hillside dance team performed before Clinton took the stage.

Clinton spent more than one-third of her speech on education. She laid out a set of priorities for improving public schools: higher-paid, better trained teachers; more research-based teaching practices;and community schools that provide services like health care and counseling.

"If you have children who are living in poverty, if you have children who are coming from families where there is disruption, whether it be addiction or a mental illness or imprisonment," she said, "those kids need more help. I want communities to provide more support for our students and our teachers."

Her words on education struck a chord with Tiffany Johnson, who has four kids in the public school system.

"I pray that she gets into office because we do really need a lot of help with our schools in North Carolina," Johnson said after the rally.

If education was Clinton’s focus issue in North Carolina, black voters were her target audience. Her" target="_blank">televisionand radio ads address the police shootings of young black men and systemic racism. And, the fact that Clinton chose to speak at Hillside, a historic black high school, was not lost on Hillside senior Tamontae Stanton-Jones.

Hillary Clinton spoke at Hillside, a historic black high school in Durham.
Credit Jess Clark
Hillary Clinton spoke at Hillside, a historic black high school in Durham.

“I only think the reason she’s at Hillside is to gain the black vote," Stanton-Jones said.

Stanton-Jones is black, and he says he doesn’t think Clinton’s appeal to black voters is genuine. His main problem with her, he says, is that she stood behind the crime policies her husband Bill Clinton pushed through as president.

“...which disproportionately impacted the black community and imprisoned many African American males," he said.

He says he’s planning to vote for Clinton’s rival Bernie Sanders, who recently released a photo showing his arrest for protesting segregated housing in the 1960s.

“He fought for civil rights. He wants criminal justice reform. So I support him.”

The latest pollfrom High Point University shows Clinton with an overall 16-point lead over Sanders in North Carolina. Other polls show Clinton fares better than Sanders among African American voters, especially in the South. But Clinton's campaign strategy suggests she’s not taking the black vote for granted.

Jess is WUNC's Fletcher Fellow for Education Policy Reporting. Her reporting focuses on how decisions made at the North Carolina General Assembly affect the state's students, families, teachers and communities.
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