Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren makes first Oklahoma campaign stop
Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren returned to Oklahoma on Sunday for her first campaign stop in the state that played a major role in shaping who she is today.
In a town hall meeting at Northwest Classen High School, her alma mater, Warren spoke for nearly an hour about her Oklahoma years and her presidential plans, including taking questions from the audience.
In the high school gymnasium where she used to sit at the top of the bleachers, the Democratic presidential candidate outlined a three-point strategy to shake up this country by rooting out federal corruption, creating structural economic change and protecting democracy by ensuring every citizen’s right to vote.
Warren, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, called for “big structural change” to keep special interest groups from dominating federal politics and preventing progress on issues Americans care about.
“Whatever issue gets you going,” she said. “Whatever it is, if there is a decision to be made in Washington, I guarantee it has been influenced by money; it has been shaped by money; it has had loopholes created by money.”
She touted her proposed wealth tax to tax uber-rich Americans worth more than $50 million in order to pay off the student loan debt that hangs over millions of Americans. The tax also would pay for education improvements, allow students to attend college for free and cover a number of other initiatives, she said.
Warren also called for major changes to preserve Americans' voting rights. She vowed to sign a federal law to ban political gerrymandering and another to roll back "racist" voter suppression laws, in addition to demanding a constitutional amendment to protect Americans' right to vote.
Warren hasn’t lived in Oklahoma for decades, but the Sooner State factors heavily into her campaign and her stump speeches. That was no different when Warren was back on her home turf.
Warren launched her presidential campaign with a video shot in Norman, where she grew up. On the campaign trail, Warren often talks about her humble upbringing and her family’s struggle to remain in the middle class after her father suffered a heart attack and lost his job.
As a result, Warren’s mother, who had never worked outside the home, had to get a full-time, minimum-wage job at Sears, Roebuck & Co.
“That wasn’t just a lesson my mother taught me,” Warren said. “It’s what millions of people across this country face every single day. No matter how hard it looks, no matter how scared they are, they reach down deep, find what they have to find and take care of the people they love.”
Mark Herring, Warren’s nephew, introduced the presidential contender, calling her “Aunt Betsy.” After taking the stage, Warren introduced other family members who still live in Oklahoma.
Before the rally, Warren met privately with some of the state’s tribal leaders.
Warren has come under fire for claiming to have Native American heritage. President Donald Trump has repeatedly referred to her as “Pocahontas,” a racial slur.
Some tribal leaders slammed Warren for releasing a DNA test last year in an attempt to prove her claims of tribal heritage. They said DNA tests do not determine tribal citizenship.
Warren has tried to put the controversy behind her ever since.
About a dozen tribal leaders attended the meeting where discussion topics included education, the under-funding of Indian Health Services and more, Warren said. She did not say whether the issue of the DNA test came up.
“It was a free-ranging discussion,” she said. “Whatever the tribal leaders wanted to talk about, I was there to talk about. I was really grateful for the opportunity to be able to visit with them.”
In responding to an audience question about what Warren would do to help the Native American population, Warren vowed to create a Cabinet position for the tribal nations and ensure that Native Americans have their voices heard at every federal agency.
She characterized it as a chance to reset the relationship between Native American tribes and the federal government.
Warren is a leading Democratic contender for president. A Real Clear Politics average of more than a half dozen polls shows Warren near the front of the pack, but trailing Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. Sanders won Oklahoma during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.
Warren only briefly mentioned Trump, saying Democrats can't defeat the Republican by playing it safe next year.
But Oklahoma is still thought to be Trump country. The Oklahoma Republican Party organized a protest outside the Warren event with a few dozen people rallied to show their support for the president.
Trump won Oklahoma over Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ 2016 presidential nominee, by more than 36%. As of November, Trump had a 53% approval rating and a 44% disapproval rating in Oklahoma, according to Morning Consult.
Warren’s campaign reported 2,200 people attended the Oklahoma City event, her 190th town hall this campaign cycle.
Oklahoma will hold its presidential primary election on Super Tuesday, which will fall on March 3.