The line of rally-goers stretched a third of a mile from the Skibo Gym all the way to Forbes Avenue on the Carnegie Mellon University campus. Students, retirees and the like were all waiting for their chance to see Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at her first stump speech in the Steel City.
By the time Clinton arrived at about 6:40 p.m., the crowd of 2,000 inside the old gymnasium had waited about two hours, but campaign representatives said that she was late because she stopped to talk to more than 1,000 people who were outside the gym and were turned away from participating in the rally inside. The crowd was made up of mostly young people (keep in mind this event was held on a college campus) along with a good number of seniors.
When Clinton finally arrived, the crowd erupted into cheers, and she was introduced by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. (In fact the rally ended up including a who’s who in local Democratic politics: Pittsburgh City Councilors Dan Gilman and Natalia Rudiak, council president Bruce Kraus, Beaver and Westmoreland county commissioners, and Heather Arnet of the Women and Girls Foundation, who recently unsuccessfully ran for a Pa. State Senate seat, came with her young son.)
“Other candidates want to build walls,” said Fitzgerald to the crowd alluding to presidential candidate and Republican front runner Donald Trump (check out next week’s City Paper Election Issue for coverage on Trump and other statewide elections). “But Pittsburgh is the City of Bridges, and Secretary Clinton is someone who builds bridges.”
When Clinton took the stage, she said she was “thrilled” to be in Pittsburgh and gave a nod to the city and how it is rebounding from the city’s recession in the 1980s.
“Pittsburgh is demonstrating resiliency, and its residents now believe they can make it in Western Pa.,” said Clinton.
Her speech focused on her experience in the U.S. Senate and her time working with President Barack Obama in the White House. She outlined plans to tackle the country’s infrastructure problems and said she would create a national infrastructure bank that would supply funds to repair the country’s crumbling roads and bridges.
Clinton also said, if elected, she would work to invest $10 billion to create manufacturing jobs. She also said there are economic opportunities in fighting climate change and pledged to install 500 million more solar panels in the U.S. by the end of her first term.
When discussing climate change, Clinton took some jabs at the Republican Party establishment who tend to deny climate change with the defense that “they are not scientists.”
“Well I bet Carnegie Mellon could help teach them about science,” she said.
She also lobbed some subtle insults towards her Democratic primary opponent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. She says she was thrilled when 195 countries signed the Paris Climate Summit agreement and decried Sanders for saying it did not go far enough in its regulations. “Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good,” she said to the crowd.
Clinton also shared her plans to address the ballooning student debt problem. She said that students should first be allowed to refinance their loans, and that after 20 years of payments, the debt should be wiped out. She also pledged to end of the practice of the government making a profit off student loans, to a large applause.
But the biggest applause of the evening came when Clinton shouted with enthusiasm “imagine that women get equal pay for the work we do.”
After the speech, Clinton circled the stage to take selfies and shake hands with hundreds of supporters. One college-age woman looked gleefully delighted after shaking Clinton’s hand, screaming to her friend how excited she was.