Electing the decade’s first president

Metroplex locals shaping Democratic primaries


Kaylee Aguilar

Candidates Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are campaigning for the 2020 Democratic primaries. Issues including college debt forgiveness, climate change and abortion are of central discussion. Photos courtesy commons.wikimedia.org and Flickr.

Nicolas Reyes, Staff Writer

Only about 1% of the American population lives in the little midwestern state. Its rolling waves of maize largely shy away from the cameras. But once every four years, a media army sets up base in Iowa. They stalk the candidates, ready to capture their every move (Mayor Bill De Blasio’s ability to eat a corndog was largely called into question during the Iowa State Fair). 

Because the Iowa and New Hampshire primary elections are first, they receive a flood of coverage. But the presidential primaries are composed of all 50 states and are important to all 50 states. With elections nearing, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have broken away from the pack. 

Though candidates are not coming south to gorge themselves on Texas State Fair food, the 2020 Democratic primaries have driven many Texans into campaigning for their chosen candidates. 

Rita Patton, a special education teacher at R.L. Turner High School in Carrollton, is one of them. Patton has organized grass-roots events for the Warren campaign because of her belief that Senator Warren is going to provide her with a better future for her and her daughter. This trust stems from the similarity between Warren and Patton’s stories.

“Her story is very much like mine; she was a teacher, and she’s been through what I’ve been through,” Patton said. “She knows how to make sure my daughter does not go through the same thing. Her father was a janitor, and her mom worked a minimum wage job. Her mom was able to save their house with a minimum wage job, and that’s just not possible anymore.”

Woot Lerdisit, a Richardson resident and a Warren campaign volunteer, was also first attracted to the campaign by a personal connection. A connection he claims helped grow his extended family.

“My sister went to Harvard Law School and was a student of hers,” Lerdisit said. “One day, her boyfriend was visiting her at Harvard and he dropped by her contracts class with Warren. Professor Warren started calling on her a lot because she saw that her boyfriend was there; she helped my sister look very good in front of her boyfriend. Now they’re married.”  

Like many other millennials, education and college debt are prominent issues in this election for Patton. 

“People my age can’t buy houses because it’s very difficult to do so when you graduate college tens of thousands of dollars in debt; it puts you behind,” Patton said. “You’re essentially told to mortgage your future. For me, the best investments are in people, I’m a teacher and a mom, I want my government to use my tax dollars wisely. Instead of giving them to a corporation’s tax break, I want the government to take tax dollars and invest them into the nation’s youth. Warren invests in people with universal childcare and education, and she will make the ultra millionaires pay for it.”

Warren’s legislative proposal for college debt forgiveness would fully cancel the debt for 75% of Americans and partially cancel the debt of 95%. Sanders has proposed a similar plan. These propositions have been applauded by young Democrats; Sanders (28%) and Warren (22%) lead the polls among potential voters between the ages of 19-29.

Biden has failed to gain the same traction with young voters.

“The problem with Biden lies in the fact that he is not doing well with young people,” University of Texas at Dallas College Democrats Club president Sabur Woldu said. “He doesn’t have policies that are new and exciting for people like us. However, he is doing a good job of talking to the blue-collar families of America and the older generations. He just really isn’t grasping college students.”

As of November, Biden leads primary polls in Texas with 23%; Warren trails him by 5%. He also leads in important battleground states such as Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. In national polls, Biden leads Warren by 7%. Many have attributed these numbers to Biden appearing to be a more moderate and more electable option compared to Warren and Sanders who are both progressive liberals. 

“If the election were tomorrow, I would vote for Biden,” Woldu said. “I think Biden could win Texas because he can attract Republicans who voted for [President Donald Trump] and who are now opposing him. He can also attract moderate Republicans contemplating where to go. Texas is a unique situation because there are a lot of people who are ‘wishy-washy’.”

It is no secret that climate change is a central issue in the primaires; 84% of Democratic voters consider it an international emergency. Democratic candidates largely fall into two groups when addressing this issue: those who fully support the Green New Deal, and those who have other propositions. 

Biden’s climate plan has been deemed a more centrist option compared to the Green New Deal, which has been endorsed by both Warren and Sanders. While Biden has incorporated many aspects of the Green New Deal in his climate change proposal, such as the goal of 0% emissions by 2050, he has not endorsed the proposal as a whole. Among other things, he has excluded the promise of guaranteeing a federal job to every American, and this has caught the eye of many middle-ground voters. 

“The idea behind the Green New Deal is necessary,” CHS senior Ben Wang said. “However, it’s not economically viable so we’re going to need to take baby steps to get there. The reality of politics is that really radicals ideas, either on the left or right, are hard to pass.”

For many nationwide, this election is about more than just the commonly discussed topics.

“To college students, one of the most important problems is sexism and sexual assault,” UTD freshman and Coppell High School 2019 graduate Daniella Murtha said. “Men and women need to be better educated about these issues. Women’s rights are very important to me, and that includes protecting the choice to have an abortion.”

Though young people across the Metroplex are making an effort to impact these elections, most campaign efforts have been focused on Iowa and New Hampshire. In Texas, a state with 36 electoral votes, only Warren has hired a state director for her campaign out of the leading candidates. Some attribute this to her history in the state. 

“Warren is from Oklahoma, but she’s practically Texan,” Patton said. “She went to college in Houston and taught law at the University of Houston and the University of Texas. She knows Texans. She knows our community. People think that because she’s the senator of Massachusetts she must not know what life is like down here, but she did all of her research on how to save the American middle class here in Texas.”

Texas will vote in the presidential primaries on Super Tuesday on March 3.

Follow Nicolas (@nico_reyes19) and @CHSCampusNews on Twitter.