Harris, Buttigieg cap long night of ‘private, ticketed’ town halls

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of coverage from the Monday evening town hall-style meetings for Democratic presidential candidates at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. Because of The Telegraph’s print deadline, reports for U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg are included here. Reports for U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., were available in the Tuesday edition.

Saint Anselm College Director of Conference and Event Services Rob Foreman on Tuesday told The Telegraph the reason the newspaper’s reporters and photographers were denied entry to the Monday town hall-style meetings involving Democratic presidential candidates is that it was a “private” CNN event.

“This was a private ticketed event and the space was contracted/rented between CNN and the college,” Foreman stated via email. “These private ticketed events are always handled differently than events that are run and sponsored by the (New Hampshire Institute of Politics) and Saint Anselm College.”

Nevertheless, The Telegraph observed the event via CNN to compile this report. This is the second of two stories on the event, which began at 7 p.m. Monday and lasted until about midnight.

The candidate dubbed “Mayor Pete” was last but far from least in Monday’s event, taking the stage to raucous, extended applause and even cheers just after 11 p.m. South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg appeared to be the “crowd favorite” crown by the time the marathon, five-hour series of town hall-style forums.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., whose time slot preceded Buttigieg’s and followed those of U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also drew robust applause when she joined moderator Don Lemon on the stage.

Lemon, who anchors a CNN evening show, was one of three moderators, along with former morning anchor and Cuomo Prime Time host Chris Cuomo and longtime CNN evening anchor Anderson Cooper.

The event was geared toward young Democratic voters, roughly 500 of whom filled the seats in front of the stage, which was encircled with CNN cameras.

The New Hampshire Institute of Politics co-hosted the town halls with the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics, the latter of which bused its participating students in from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Harris and Buttigieg touched upon some of the same subjects the earlier candidates also explored in response to questions posed by the youthful members of the live audience.

Among them was the hot-button issue of impeaching President Donald Trump, which Warren wasted no time in bringing up in the wake of the release of the redacted Mueller report.

Kamala Answers

Harvard senior Carla Alvarado posed the question regarding impeachment, asking Harris if she believes Democrats in Congress should reconsider their position on impeachment “in light of the Mueller report” findings.

“It is very clear there’s a lot of good evidence (in the report) pointing to obstruction of justice,” Harris responded. While the report stopped short of directly accusing Trump of obstructing justice, “an investigation has been done that tells us this administration engaged in the obstruction of justice.

“I believe Congress should take steps toward impeachment,” Harris said, drawing applause when she added, “I believe we need to get rid of this president … that’s why I’m running.”

School safety, and the safety of police officers and other emergency responders called into potentially deadly mass shooting scenes, is a problem that needs to be addressed starting in Washington, Harris said.

“There are people in Washington, D.C., supposed leaders, who have failed to have the courage to reject a false choice that suggests you are either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns away,” Harris told the live audience and viewers around the country.

Elected officials failed to muster the courage “to act to pass common sense gun legislation,” she added.

As with her fellow Democrats in the ever-expanding primary race, Harris addressed the student debt crisis, calling “unconscionable” the fact “we have students in America in absolute fear about the debt they will face.”

The nation “cannot afford to have a system like this, especially for young people who invest their time and money to contribute to our society,” Harris added.

She supports a plan to allow students to refinance their loans at significantly lower interest rates, and at the same time, make the “way too complicated” process much easier.

On climate change, Harris warned Americans “need to take this seriously … the clock is ticking every day.”

Noting “there was a time, and still to this day, we’re fighting wars over oil. In a short time we’re going to be fighting wars over water,” she said.

Lemon, the moderator, asked Harris if she is on the same page as Sanders when it comes to allowing felons, both incarcerated and parolees, to vote.

“I agree that the right to vote is one of the very important components of citizenship, and it’s not something people should be stripped of needlessly,” Harris, a former prosecutor, replied.

While she said she is “a longtime advocate” of making sure the “criminally incarcerated are not denied their right to vote,” Harris said “I think we should have that conversation” when Lemon asked her if voting rights should be extended to more violent felons.

‘Mayor Pete’ Speaks

Buttigieg, meanwhile, opened the final town hall of the evening by panning the Citizens United legislation, whose passage, he said, has led to “concentrations of wealth and corporate power turning into concentrations of political power.”

Citizens United “has been disastrous … it’s a matter of principle. Corporations do not equal people,” Buttigieg added.

On the subject of immigration, Cooper, Buttigieg’s moderator, asked him if he’d designate his city of South Bend “a sanctuary city … if Indiana allowed it.”

“Whatever you want to call it, we’re a welcoming city,” Buttigieg replied, noting that to some, the terms are one and the same.

The youngest candidate in the field, at least so far, Buttigieg answered Cooper’s question about voting rights for incarcerated felons differently than did Sanders and Harris.

“No, I don’t think so,” Buttigieg said when Cooper asked him if he favors allowing violent sex offenders or criminals such as “the Boston Marathon bomber” to vote while incarcerated.

However, he added, he does believe criminals’ right to vote should be restored “once they have served their sentence. It’s part of being restored to society,” Buttigieg said.

Looking forward, Buttigieg said with the approach of first, the Democratic primary, then the 2020 general election, “we’re on the dawn of something new.

“It could be really enlightened, fantastic, but it could also be really ugly.

“What’s at stake right now is not how to win just an election, but how to win an era.”