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Bill Clinton rallies Lee County Dems

By Staff | Oct 12, 2016

Michael Pistella Former President Bill Clinton waves to supporters after his speech?Tuesday afternoon in Fort Myers. Below, Supporters who could not come inside Riverside Community Center stood outside to listen to the Democratic nominee’s husband talk.

Shane Broadstone, a senior at Oasis High School, will just miss the cutoff to be able to vote in the November election.

The 17-year-old’s birthday is just a month after it, but this hasn’t inhibited his dedicated interest in politics. He was the first person in line to hear Bill Clinton speak at the Riverside Community Center Tuesday, Oct. 11.

“I want to see his case for why Hillary Clinton should be president,” he said.

He convinced his older brother, FSW student Brandon Broadwater, to come along.

Brandon said he’s served as his brother’s chauffeur for other political events, too: the brothers attended Joe Biden’s stop in Sarasota last week and Shane went to the Trump rally in September. While he can’t vote yet, Shane said he’s trying to keep an open mind about both candidates.

Michael Pistella Former President Bill Clinton addresses the crowd at the Riverside Com-munity Center Tuesday. He was in Fort Myers campaigning for his wife, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Brandon, however, has decided.

“I’m voting for her,” he said.

The sense of confidence in the Democratic candidate resounded through the small room at the community center. Former President Bill Clinton spoke to an audience of just under 200 people within the building and a larger crowd that stood outside, most bearing the now-iconic Hillary Clinton stickers.

“For me, there is only one candidate to support in this election,” said Teresa Watkins, Fort Myers City Council member, who was one of the guest speakers for the event.

She spoke of her early life in Fort Myers, living on a dirt road with her parents and 10 siblings.

“My dad said, you fight for the rights of those whose voices are not loud – Hillary Clinton has done just that,” Watkins said.

John Lee of Fort Myers proudly donned his Vietnam Veteran hat while he waited in line with his wife, Susan. The part-time resident served as a radio operator in the Navy from 1969 to 1975.

He said he feels in the minority of veterans who supported Hillary Clinton – many of his fellow veterans and friends tend to be “Trumpsters,” he said. He, however, said he felt more comfortable with the Democratic platform, especially regarding the selection of U.S. Supreme Court Justices, and feels Hillary Clinton would keep the country from turning backwards on important social issues.

“As a vet, I like that she has the mindset to negotiate before attacking,” Lee said. “She’s logical, not impulsive, and as a bonus we would get Bill.”

Terry Tribbett of Cape Coral, who attended the event with her friend Carol Trettel, thinks the most important issue in this election is jobs and wages.

“A lot of people are struggling,” she said. “The economy is bouncing back, but it’s easy to lose sight of others struggling.”

And Bill Clinton talked about jobs.

He told the audience about Hillary’s plan to create new jobs and encourage small business startups.

He talked about her $25 billion plan to incentivize businesses to build in depressed and rural areas, incentivize banks to support small business loans and focus on progressive infrastructure that would create new jobs as well as infrastructure work such as replacing piping for water systems in places like Flint, Mich.

Clinton turned the conversation toward Florida specifically, saying that improving solar energy and its grid to better and more efficiently deliver solar power to areas that need it is an issue facing the state in its Amendment 1.

He also suggested that unless aggressive efforts were made to stall climate change, infrastructure projects that fought rising sea levels could be a sector that would create jobs in Florida.

The former president outlined his wife’s plan for higher education as a means to train employees for better jobs. She joined with her former opponent Bernie Sanders to make community college free on her platform. She also wants to make four-year degrees at state institutions free for students whose families make under $125,000 a year and change law to allow student loans to be refinanced at a lower interest rate.

“There’s something wrong with a country charging twice the interest on a student loan as a home loan,” Bill Clinton said.

Clinton also talked about police reform, equal access to the Internet and an improved mental health system.

Only a few protestors caused a disruption at Clinton’s event. One tried to block news cameras with a “Trump Pence 2016” campaign sign. Another wore a Hillary 2016 shirt to gain access inside the community center and then began yelling during Clinton’s speech.

“I know it’s been a bizarre election. There is a reason for the anger people feel,” Clinton said. “There are a lot of people who feel they’ve been left out and left behind in this economy and that no one cares about them.”

He reminded the audience that people who are angry, upset and worried are the most vulnerable to having “salt rubbed in their wounds” by others.

“We have to choose bridges over walls,” he said.

For Janet Wilson, seeing Bill Clinton speak was life in full circle. She lived in Washington, D.C., during his presidency, moving there in 1993 just in time to see his inauguration.

“I’ve always felt he was my president,” she said.

Now, she got to see him again as a Fort Myers resident. She wore both his saxophone inaugural pin and a new one for his potential role as “First Dude.”

“I’ve been a Hillary fan for a long time,” Wilson said, adding with the same confidence that others echoed: “She will be our next president.”