By TAYLOR HARTZ
The two leading Democrats in this year’s presidential race visited Connecticut this week, just in time for the April 26 primary elections.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) hosted a panel discussion at the Wilson-Gray YMCA on Albany Ave. in Hartford on the morning of April 12, where she spoke about her platform for comprehensive gun violence reform.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (D) followed suit over the weekend, hosting two rallies. Sanders delivered speeches on Sunday evening in New Haven and on Monday morning in Hartford.
Clinton joined family members of gun violence victims, including Erica Smeigelski and Nelba Marquez-Greene, who both lost loved ones in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, on Dec. 14, 2012. Roughly 300 supporters came to hear Clinton’s discussion, where she compared state-level legislation in Connecticut to her plans for national reform.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (D-Conn.) and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin (D) spoke at the discussion after concerns were raised by Marquez-Greene about budget cuts to social services in the state.
“I know how hard it was to do what Connecticut’s governor and legislature did after Sandy Hook,” said Clinton, who said she will be advocating for comprehensive gun reform and closing gun purchasing loopholes.
“What happened here in Connecticut really needs to be a model,” said Clinton, “That’s what we have to do in Washington and nationally.”
Sue Trotta-Smith of Southington attended both Clinton discussions and Sanders’ rally on Sunday. She said each event played to the strengths of the candidates and was filled with enthusiastic supporters.
Trotta-Smith said Clinton’s gun violence discussion showed both “her command of the issue” and her “ability to listen thoughtfully,” while she thought “Sanders excelled at outlining his platform in a speech that was relevant and exciting.”
Drawing large crowds to rallies in New Haven and Hartford, Sanders spoke about education, urban poverty, and criminal justice.
Southington resident Krystiana Bouchard, 18, attended Sunday’s rally and said that she found Sanders’ platform “relatable.”
“If nothing more, I understand his passion, his drive, and I appreciate that what he considers success to be is not just personal but beneficial to everyone,” said Bouchard.
Bouchard said she would be supporting Sanders in the primaries, casting her first ballot as an eligible voter. “I truly believe that the policies he’ll put into place and the things he will change about how our society functions will allow for me to grow up and achieve some of my wildest dreams,” she said.
A registered Democrat, Trotta-Smith said she will be voting for one of the two candidates she heard speak, but chose not to disclose who she supports.
“As a Democrat, I am grateful to have two capable, experienced candidates to choose from,” she said.
Both Clinton and Sanders joined Rocky De La Fuenta on the Democratic ballot for the Connecticut primaries on April 26.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Hartz, email her at THartz@SouthingtonObserver.com.