By 2 p.m., the line of Hillary Clinton hopefuls trailed past the corner of Vincennes Street and Bertrand Avenue on the east side of the University Student Union building, with waves more of her supporters lining up. Though the New York senator’s rally in support of her presidential campaign was set to run from 2:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m., she arrived late at approximately 3:45 p.m. and some supporters arrived as early as 10 a.m.
“I need your help in this election,” Clinton told cheering supporters waiting outside the Grand Salon at the USU, where she was scheduled to speak. Though one police officer estimated the turnout at about 2,000 to 3,000 earlier in the afternoon, the crowd had thinned out to about several hundred by the time the presidential candidate arrived. Before heading back into the building to make her speech, Clinton told the crowd she would shake as many hands as she could until she had to return inside.
Concerns about the Patriot Act, healthcare and the Iraq War drew many attendees to hear Clinton’s positions on the top election subjects. Supporters of Clinton mixed with anti-war protesters handing out “Impeachment is Patriotic” stickers and a select few others who were rallying for other candidates.
Nikki Maxwell, an alumnus who earned her degree in deaf studies and later worked as the coordinator of community service at the Matador Involvement Center for eight years, waited in line to get into the event with her 7-year-old daughter, Erin.
“I want (my daughter) to see that it’s possible that a woman can be president in her lifetime,” said Maxwell, who is now a work-at-home consultant and community activist. “I’m hoping (Clinton) is the woman.”
Maxwell said she supports Clinton’s health care system, which is being promoted as small business-friendly, and her proposal to increase spending on education.
“Our major issues are things that affect families (and) small businesses,” she said. She attended the rally as a representative of Our Community School, a North Hills public charter school where her daughter attends. She had hoped to get into the event to “(talk) about the plight of the families here in the valley.”
Zach Dulli learned about the last-minute speaking engagement through Clinton’s e-mail list. The 27-year-old actor described himself as a supporter of both Bill and Hillary Clinton.
“Obviously, all the Democratic candidates are pretty similar in what they want,” said Dulli. As he stood at the end of the line, Dulli said he believes Clinton’s past experience in the White House will allow her to start making changes immediately if she becomes president.
“It’s one thing to be a part of Washington, but it’s another thing to know how it operates and I think that she, better than anyone else, knows how it works and knows how to make the changes I want to see done,” Dulli said.
Farther up the line, Alvin and Shirley Hanshett stood by the Design Factory waiting for the word from officials on whether they would make it in to hear Clinton speak. Their daughter, Danielle, who did not attend the event, graduated from CSUN with a bachelor’s degree in political science and minored in English and now works as a police officer with the San Fernando Valley police department, they said.
Both still undecided on their political candidates, the couple said they came to see what Clinton had to say and ask questions, “but it doesn’t look like that’s happening,” commented Alvin, a 66-year-old retired aerospace engineer.
“If I couldn’t vote for (Dennis) Kucinich, I might vote for (John) Edwards,” said Shirley, a 78-year-old psychotherapist. After reading one of Barack Obama’s books, Shirley said she wouldn’t be casting her vote for the Democratic Illinois senator because she did not agree with his belief that the Senate should make reference to God in moral issues.
As they moved up in line, Alvin said he was “more favorable towards Edwards,” but Democratic candidate Kucinich is his first choice. The couple was concerned with the Patriot Act and wanted to “get rid of it,” and they had hoped to hear Clinton speak about the subject.
Neither of the Hanshetts expected thousands to show up.
“I’m rather disappointed at the way they organized it so far,” said Shirley, citing the lack of information they were receiving from officials on the status of the event.
Stephanie Rozek, 27, and Kris Tacsik, 55, both work in the geography department and sat together on a table in Plaza Del Sol. Rozek and Tacsik also said they were still considering candidates to vote for.
“She’ll do a lot more than this president is doing right now,” said Tacsik.
Several groups of Northridge Academy High School students also stood in Plaza Del Sol, waiting to catch a glimpse of Clinton.
Senior high school student Robert Barker, the oldest in one group, said he would be turning 18 in February but does not know who he will vote for yet. His class is currently studying the presidential candidates and their issues, he said, and he is considering Clinton for his vote because he agrees with her on the war and decreasing funding for it.
Fourteen-year-old Angelo Escobedo, a high school freshman, stood with Barker and several other friends. Despite being four years away from the voting age, Escobedo said he would pick Obama because “he stands for what he says.”
On Clinton, “she’s cool,” said Escobedo. “It would be cool if we had a woman president.”
Not all who attended the rally were Clintonites. Several supporters of Republican presidential runner Ron Paul showed up to sway voters and offer an alternate candidate.
Brian Hand, who was rallying for Paul, made signs that read, “Ron Paul 2008” and “24 Years of Bush-Clinton, Bush-Clinton.”
“I’m missing rehearsal just to do this,” said the 23-year-old theatre major. Earlier in the afternoon as he walked past the end of the line, one Clinton supporter yelled, “Fascist!” at him, to which he responded, “Fascist? How about Constitutionalist!”
“Everybody keeps talking about how they’re the candidate of change, but I mean right here,” he said as he pointed to his hand-made sign, “there’s going to be 24 years of not changing?just Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton?so people should know what they’re voting for.”
Hand said if Clinton does win, “I want her to do the best job (she can) because America’s in trouble right now.” Like the Hanshetts, Hand said he was also concerned with the Patriot Act, saying that Clinton had voted for it in the past.
The theatre student said although some people waiting in line felt he was in the “wrong crowd,” he thought differently.
“In fact, I think this is the right crowd,” he said. “They need to see (Ron Paul’s) presence around,” Hand said, in order to be fully informed voters.
“I want to see a woman become president,” said Natlyn Hirsch, 59, who waited in line with her 31-year-old son, Ian Collins. “She’s qualified for the job. In other countries like India, Pakistan and England, if they can elect women and we’re supposed to be a democracy, why is it that we can’t have a woman in the United States?” she said.
Collins, a graduate of UC Berkeley who received his bachelor’s degree in political science, agreed, “I think in this day and age, America should be free for all sexes and for all races,” said the Northridge resident. Collins also stood with Clinton’s plan to end the Iraq war within the next year.
One of Hirsch’s important issues included healthcare, and she said she agreed with Senator Clinton’s affordable health insurance policy.
“What’s coming out of my paycheck is so high, but I can’t retire because I’ll lose that healthcare.”