HARTFORD — After Tuesday’s resounding victory in New York, Hillary Clinton made her first campaign appearance in the Nutmeg State Thursday in a push to secure the Democratic nomination for president with wins in five Northeastern states next week, including Connecticut.
Clinton joined five other panelists in a campaign-sponsored forum at the Wilson-Gray YMCA in Hartford to discuss the harms of gun violence and ways to combat it.
Beginning her Connecticut push on a topic close to home for many of the state’s residents, Clinton said she promised to fight for new federal gun restrictions “every day” as president – similar to laws passed in Connecticut following the Sandy Hook School shooting in 2012.
“We need a national movement,” Clinton told the crowd of more than 300 gathered in the YMCA’s gymnasium.
Gun violence kills 33,000 people each year, Clinton said in her introduction to the forum, so gaining consensus on tackling the problem should be easier than it is. However, she said, passing federal gun reform laws is difficult because “nobody is more powerful than the gun lobby.”
Clinton said those in opposition to more gun control need to recognize there are “too many” guns in the United States.
The event featured five panelists alongside Clinton, all of whom had been affected by gun violence. The panel included two speakers tied to the Sandy Hook School shooting in 2012 – Erica Smegielski, daughter of the Sandy Hook School principal who was killed and Nelba Márquez-Greene, whose 6-year-old daughter died in the shooting.
Other panelists included Iran Nazario, founder of COMPASS Peacebuilders, Kim Washington, founder of New Haven-based Mother’s Demand Action and Hartford resident Deborah Davis.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, who have both endorsed Clinton, also spoke during the event. Malloy said Connecticut responded promptly after the shooting at Sandy Hook School with wide-reaching gun legislation.
“Connecticut stands as a strong example of a state that responded and there are a handful of other states that have responded in a similar way,” Malloy said. “If this (gun) industry was treated like every other industry, we wouldn't have the problems we have today.”
Clinton praised Malloy for the state’s legislative response to the shooting. Márquez-Greene, however, spoke directly to Malloy from the stage about recent state budget cuts, urging him to stop cutting social services and mental health programs. She said they are essential in preventing another shooting like Sandy Hook.
The crowd responded with applause.
The forum pivoted to broader urban issues as the discussion progressed. Clinton talked about the importance of fighting income inequality and ensuring access to education.
“I want to be the president for the struggling and striving,” Clinton said.
The event comes as Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Maryland and delegate-rich Pennsylvania prepare to vote next Tuesday. National pundits are calling the five states the “Acela primary.”
Clinton’s pivot to Connecticut follows a decisive victory over her rival Bernie Sanders in New York earlier in the week. She received 58 percent of the vote to Sanders’ 42 percent, bringing her within 500 delegates of winning the nomination, according to the most recent delegate count from the Associated Press.
Next Tuesday’s states have a combined 384 delegates up for grabs. Sizable wins in all five states could put Clinton in position to clinch the nomination in early June.
Republican presidential candidates John Kasich and Donald Trump have both visited Connecticut once already in the last week and a half. Kasich is scheduled return for his second campaign event in the state on Friday while Trump plans to return on Saturday.
Sanders has yet to visit Connecticut, but his campaign has been reaching out to a number of venues to make arrangements in the past three days. Clinton is also expected to make at least one more appearance in the state before Tuesday.
Recent polling of Democratic voters in Connecticut has shown a tighter race than one the Republican side, but Clinton still holds a significant lead over Sanders.
A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday showed Clinton with 51 percent support among the state’s Democrats while Sanders garnered 42 percent. Six percent were undecided.