LAS VEGAS — In a humble part of town far from the glitz of the Strip, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats turned out the star power Tuesday night as the party prepares for Saturday's Nevada presidential caucuses.
Firing up the troops at the East Las Vegas Community Center, Reid headlined an event the state party billed as both a "mock caucus" training and a Latino outreach event. It featured national figures such as Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and revered Hispanic leaders such as Dolores Huerta, who co-founded the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez. Local Democratic officeholders also spoke.
"Well, boys and girls, I want you to understand you have watched a legend," Reid said, addressing students from Rancho and Canyon Springs high schools and referring to Huerta. "This is some kind of woman," he said, adding, "I so admire her." Huerta and Kaine were on hand as surrogates for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose outreach to Latinos is key to her ground game in Nevada as she seeks the Democratic nomination against Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt.
"I know that Hillary Clinton has been with us forever," Huerta said, ticking off examples of Clinton's past support for Latinos. When she left the stage, the crowd of a roughly 200 changed, "Si, se puede," the United Farm Workers motto.
Kaine — who has endorsed Clinton and become an active surrogate for her in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — came before Huerta. His fluency in Spanish and past experience as a missionary in Honduras make him an in-demand advocate for her among Latino audiences. After Tuesday's event, Kaine was headed to Colorado for a few Latino outreach events on Wednesday.
"She has been an unyielding supporter of the importance of immigration reform. Don't we need to get that done finally?" Kaine asked the crowd, which roared its approval.
Sanders' surrogates also resonated with the Latino community. Cesar Vargas, Sanders' national Latino outreach strategist, is a "dreamer," or an undocumented immigrant brought to the country as a child, and he made an impassioned plea to support the Vermont senator. He was followed by Federico Chavez, the nephew of Cesar Chavez.
To have two people with such close ties to Cesar Chavez arguing for opposing candidates at the same event was extraordinary, something Federico Chavez acknowledged.
"It is family, OK? And families can have differences of opinion. And we can respect each other's opinions," Chavez said before launching into his stump speech for Sanders, focusing in particular on the costs of college education and income inequality.
After the surrogates finished their pitches, Reid was introduced by Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., as a "real hero" of the state. She reminded those assembled why they were all here. "This is about our future. And you represent our future," Titus said.
Reid fought hard to establish Nevada as the first-in-the-West caucus state in 2008, and its diversity is a standard part of his argument as to why it deserves that slot. "We're now having caucuses here on Saturday, in a state that's representative of what America is," he said. He has declined to endorse either Clinton or Sanders, which fit neatly into the coming-together vibe of the event.
"It's about unity at the end of the day," said the event's emcee, Assemblyman Nelson Araujo.