Raleigh crowd cheers Elizabeth Warren’s plans for ‘big structural change’

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is speaking at Raleigh’s Broughton High School, and we’re posting updates from the event. You can find more coverage here.

8:20 p.m.: Big ideas

Much of Warren’s speech and a question-and-answer session afterward featured her big plans.

“Big structural change is hard, but it is the right thing to do,” she said. “We need big ideas to match the big problems we have in this country.”

Warren hasn’t mentioned her primary opponents directly yet, but said Democrats don’t need campaigns that “nibble at the edges.”

“If all Democrats can offer is business as usual after Donald Trump, Democrats will lose,” she said.

7:36 p.m.: Crowd size

The Warren campaign says the final crowd count is 3,550, at capacity. That includes the gym and adjacent hallways overlooking it.

7:35 p.m.: ‘Structural change’

Warren’s trademark call for “big structural change” gets the loudest crowd reaction of the night so far, with cheers, applause and feet stomping in the stands.

“Whatever issue brought you here today ... it’s been reshaped by money. It’s been nudged by money ... it is absolutely about campaign contributions and so much more,” Warren said, citing think tanks and lobbyists, too.

Democratic candidate and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks to supporters at her campaign rally at Broughton High School in Raleigh, NC on Nov 7, 2019. The high school gym was at full capacity which is estimated to be around 3,500 people. Bryan Cereijo bcereijo@newsobserver.com

7:30 p.m.: Honoring organizer who died

Thursday’s event began with a moment of silence for Denzel Cummings, the Warren campaign’s North Carolina community organizing director who died unexpectedly this week.

As she took the stage, Warren thanked the crowd for the moment of silence. Campaigns, Warren said, are like families. ”It’s a family formed of people who have shared values, who have shared commitment and who in a very short time share love, and so thank you for being here to support our family and Denzel’s family,” Warren said.

Cummings was a Laurinburg native who attended the University of Pennsylvania and worked at the Center for American Progress before returning to North Carolina with the Warren campaign.

”We mourn his loss,” Warren said, “but we celebrate his life and we celebrate that he spent it in a commitment to make this a better country.”

7:25 p.m.: Minimum wage job

Warren started her speech with a story from her childhood — her family struggling after her father had a heart attack and was out of work. She described her mother, a stay-at-home mom, repeating the words, “we will not lose this house,” getting a minimum-wage job — and saving the house.

“Today a full-time minimum wage job will not keep a mom and a baby out of poverty. That is wrong,” Warren said.

“Why is America’s middle class being hollowed out? Why is it that so many who work every bit as hard as my mother worked a generation ago, two generations ago ... finding a path today is so much rockier and steeper ... and for people of color, even more rockier and even more steeper.”

7:05 p.m.: Warren speaking now

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and democratic presidential candidate and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren at Broughton High School in Raleigh, NC on Nov 7, 2019. Bryan Cereijo bcereijo@newsobserver.com

6:50 p.m. NC Rep. Butler endorses Warren

Rep. Deb Butler, the North Carolina House Democratic whip, walked out to cheers as she introduced Warren.

“I think you probably recognize me from a little video that went viral,” Butler said.

Butler, from Wilmington, was thrust into the national spotlight in September after a video of her shouting “I will not yield” went viral. Her angry objections came as the House voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto on the budget. Many Democrats were not in attendance that day.

Following Butler’s viral moment, Warren tweeted a video of support to the North Carolina legislator.

On Thursday at Warren’s rally, Butler said Warren “knows the difference between service to country and service to self.”

“She has bold ideas for big problems and she’s not afraid to talk about them,” Butler said.

Butler told the story of how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell silenced Warren during the confirmation hearings of Jeff Sessions to attorney general, an event that led to McConnell saying, “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

”He helped propel Sen. Warren to role model for every woman, every little girl and every middle-aged legislator in this country,” Butler said in endorsing Warren.

Butler asked the crowd to shout “We will not yield” and “We will persist.”

The crowd obliged.

6 p.m.: Crowd size at rally

A volunteer counting people as they came in the door counted more than 2,200 people as the gym continued to fill.

In the stands, “Dream Big, Fight Hard” signs were handed out to the crowd.

A crowd fills the Broughton High School gym at an Elizabeth Warren rally Nov. 7, 2019, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan dvaughan@newsobserver.com

Outside the gym, a children’s area has coloring pages for kids.

Outside the gym at Raleigh’s Broughton High School where Elizabeth Warren was holding a rally Nov. 7, 2019, a children’s area has coloring pages for kids. Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan dvaughan@newsobserver.com

5:50 p.m.: Warren has narrow lead in polls

Stephen Fusi of Holly Springs said he believes Warren will ultimately emerge from the crowded primary field as the Democratic nominee.

“She has a very high degree of energy that people will gravitate to,” Fusi said. “I think she’ll do well in Iowa and New Hampshire, and I think there’s a lot of parallels to former President (Barack) Obama’s campaign.”

Lingering doubts about Obama’s viability began to dissipate after his victory in the 2008 Iowa caucus, Fusi recalled, eventually sending him to the nomination and then the presidency.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday found Warren holds a narrow lead in the Iowa caucus with 20% of likely voters supporting her candidacy, edging out South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Fusi cited Warren’s plan to reduce or waive student debt as a key reason for his support. Fusi said he’s been making payments for 15 years and will probably continue doing so for about five more.

“It’s just a thing that I need to get done with,” Fusi said.

Fusi also mentioned social justice as a major reason for his support, saying he appreciates that Warren has acknowledged that black women have childbirth mortality rates three to four times higher than white women.

By acknowledging the problem, Fusi said, Warren is more likely to advance solutions.

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Stephen Fusi of Holly Springs attends an Elizabeth Warren rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Nov. 7, 2019. Adam Wagner awagner@newsobserver.com

5:30 p.m.: Front row seat

East Carolina University students Chloe Thompson and Alexa Pantazonis came to see Warren from Greenville. They waited in line for about an hour before getting a front row seat in the Broughton gym.

“I’m an independent so I’m here to learn more about her,” Thompson said.

For Pantazonis, Warren is her top choice for the Democratic nominee because of Warren’s policy positions on issues including reproductive health, climate change and equal rights. Thompson said she likes that Warren wants to work on the high maternal mortality rates of African American women, as well as women’s health.

Thompson said she’s not a fan of Joe Biden, who along with Warren is leading many of the polls in the race for the Democratic nomination. She cited Biden’s role in passing a crime bill in the 1990s which she said furthered mass incarceration. Pantazonis said that during the Democratic debates, Biden talked too much about being former President Barack Obama’s vice president instead of what he would do.

Chloe Thompson, left, and Alexa Pantazonis came from Greenville to see Elizabeth Warren at her Nov. 7, 2019, rally at Broughton High School in Raleigh, North Carolina. Both are East Carolina University students. Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan dvaughan@newsobserver.com

5:10 p.m.: Student debt, child care

Caitlin Emmons drove from Jacksonville to attend the Warren event with Izzie Atchley-Martin, her 4-year-old daughter. Atchley-Martin held a sign that said, “Preschoolers for Warren” on one side and “Because that’s what girls do” on the other

Emmons outlined several reasons for her support of Warren, including her stances on child care and student debt.

The family, Emmons said, is a military family and continues to work in public-sector jobs in part because if they made more money it would trigger higher student debt payments. After graduating from a public college and law school, Emmons said, her total student debt was about $270,000.

”I want them to not ever have to worry about this,” Emmons said about her children and student debt.

Warren has a plan that would forgive at least some of the debt of about 45 million Americans, with about three-quarters of those people seeing their balances cleared.

While Emmons and her family will move to California three days before North Carolina’s primary, she said she wanted her daughter to see Warren in person. Speaking of Izzie and referencing Hillary Clinton’s 2016 candidacy, Emmons said, “She’s only ever known a world where women run for president.”

Emmons expressed skepticism that Warren would be able to gain substantial support in deep-red areas like her Onslow County home. But, Emmons added, she believes having detailed plans could sway some otherwise-hesitant voters. “When you can sit down and explain to someone, ‘This is how we’re going to fund something,’ it becomes less of a pipe dream,” Emmons said.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan dvaughan@newsobserver.com

4:40 p.m.: LGBT rights

Em Seyb of Durham said they are supporting Elizabeth Warren because of the Massachusetts senator’s stance on inclusivity.

”It’s really easy to say that you have a plan for stuff without any actionable items and say you’re for people without sitting down and talking to them,” said Seyb, adding that Warren listens to the people she claims to support. Warren’s plans include one addressing LGBTQ rights, in which the candidate lays out a series of steps including expanding non-discrimination protections and increasing enforcement and investigations into anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

Seyb also said they support Warren because of her compassion toward other people. ”She gets stuff done, but she’s also a compassionate human being,” Seyb said.

Doors have opened and people are filing into the Broughton gymnasium.

4:30 p.m.: Lining up for rally

Hundreds of people lined up outside Broughton High School outside downtown Raleigh on a sunny late afternoon to see U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Broughton football players walked by in practice gear as people waited in line for the campaign rally. Buttons and T-shirts were being sold with slogans like “Persist,” “We are the resistance” and “Dream big. Fight hard. Elizabeth Warren President 2020.”

Buttons are sold outside an Elizabeth Warren campaign rally at Broughton High School in Raleigh on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan dvaughan@newsobserver.com

Kori Hennessey and Jordan Manus, both from Apex, were among those waiting. “I love Elizabeth Warren. I believe it is time for a female to run our country and she’s the person,” Manus said.

Hennessey likes Warren’s policy plans, in particular her LGBTQ plan, which they described as reversing what Trump is doing.

Hennessey likes Warren as a candidate because “just in general it’s nice to see a candidate is there to support queer individuals like us.”

Manus said he likes Bernie Sanders “but his plans are not sustainable. He’s too socialist for this country.” Manus described himself as socialist but prefers Warren because she’s “a perfect mix for this country, of capitalist and socialist, and actually has a chance of passing (legislation).”

Kori Hennessey, left, and Jordan Manus, both from Apex, attend a rally for Elizabeth Warren at Broughton High School in Raleigh on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan dvaughan@newsobserver.com

4:10 p.m.: Ayanna Pressley joining Warren

The Warren campaign describes the Raleigh event as a town hall with Warren and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, one of the four first-term women members of Congress known as “the Squad.” It comes after the two shared the stage at Greensboro’s N.C. A&T University.

At A&T, Warren spoke to a mostly black audience of more than 400 people. Pressley, who is African American, has endorsed Warren. Pressley said Warren doesn’t pander to black audiences. She said her plans would benefit all Americans.

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Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan covers North Carolina state government and politics at The News & Observer. She previously covered Durham for 13 years, and has received six North Carolina Press Association awards, including a 2018 award for investigative reporting.