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John L. Smith: Democratic Prez Slate Looks Like America

(AP Photo/John Locher)

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., waves before taking the stage at a Service Employees International Union forum on labor issues, Saturday, April 27, 2019, in Las Vegas.

Some of the rising stars in the galaxy of Democratic Party presidential hopefuls came through Las Vegas this weekend, stressing organized labor and living wages.

Southern Nevada is a hotbed of union activity and the state's first-in-the-West caucus status makes it an important place to campaign for the 2020 presidential election.

State of Nevada contributor John L. Smith said the candidates weren't here looking for an endorsement from the SEIU, which co-sponsored the event, instead, they were here to try out their campaign messages.

“It is a good time for those folks, some of whom have jobs back East during the week, to get out to the West, to get out to a state that is in play for the Democrats and to talk about those issues that are near and dear to a lot of the base,” Smith said.

The candidates talked about minimum wage and working-class issues, which was the focus of the forum but they also floated more lofty ideas.

John Hickenlooper said he wants to challenge a Supreme Court ruling on federal workers and union dues; while Elizabeth Warren wants to restructure corporate America by having more employees on boards of directors.

Besides their policies, Smith noticed something else about the candidates in attendance.

“I think that when you stack that lineup… across a stage, it looks an awful lot like America,” he said.

He said the diversity in the crowd of 20 Democrats running for president is sending a message of inclusivity, Smith said.

“There is a lot of positive messaging going on in the Democratic Party right now from candidates who are running against each other technically but clearly there’s a focus on showing that broad base of America - the America where people actually live,” he said.


Most people think of Cliven Bundy as the man locked in a fight with the federal government over public lands but he recently appeared as a speaker at the Baker Heirloom Seed Company. 

The topic was dry climate gardening, which Bundy is an expert at.

“These owners, setting aside his politics and trying not to discuss his politics, they invited him to give a talk on gardening, which to me was so much of a curveball,” Smith said.

A judge recently threw out Bundy's latest effort to have public lands managed by the federal government turned over to the state. 

Smith said despite the latest court defeat and the return to farming and ranching, it is unlikely that Bundy's life will return to normal.

“Their entry into the national political psyche, whether they wanted to do that or not they certainly wound up like that, I think that changes people forever. He’ll always be known as that guy. And the armed standoff will always be remembered and filtered through different political lenses.”

John L. Smith, contributor

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.