Former vice president and presidential candidate Joe Biden held a campaign event in Raleigh on Saturday ahead of North Carolina's Super Tuesday election.
The candidate had his first successful run in the South Carolina primary election over the weekend after falling short in the previous three early states. He and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) seem to be vying for frontrunner status heading into Super Tuesday, and Biden needed to energize North Carolina voters.
"I wanted to see him in person and hear him for myself and see the energy around him," Mamie Branch, a Raleigh resident who attended the rally, said.
The rally, which was held at the historically black Saint Augustine’s University, kicked off with remarks from several North Carolina and U.S. Congress members. Biden’s platform focused on issues including K-12 education reform, the extension of affordable health care and comprehensive gun reform.
“What can we say about the soul of this nation?” Biden said. “When you send your kids off to school this September, little kids, they’ll learn to cower under their desks, duck and cover, run zig-zag down a hallway. For what reason? For fear.”
Biden’s speech was focused on redeeming the country's “moral depravity," and he and several speakers mentioned the fact that Biden is the only politician that has beaten the National Rifle Association in the legislature twice. He also pledged to remove special interest protections that allow gun manufacturers to market military-grade weapons.
N.C. Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth), chairperson of the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus, endorsed Biden, citing the need for somebody who is honest and cares for the people of North Carolina.
“We need somebody that’s concerned about health care, that’s concerned that everybody has access,” Lowe said. “We need somebody that’s concerned about this economy and that’s concerned about jobs — and we need someone that is concerned that everybody has an opportunity. Joe Biden will do that job if we send him to Washington.”
U.S. Representatives David Price and G. K. Butterfield of North Carolina introduced Biden to the crowd of several hundred people. Butterfield, who worked with Biden on the Voting Rights Act when it was limited by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1982, said he is a politician who is dedicated to fighting for communities and following through on his promises.
“Joe Biden is running now to fill the future where everyone is treated with dignity, everyone has a fair shot at the American dream,” Butterfield said. “The word ‘progressive,' my friends, is about progress — getting things done — that’s what Joe Biden has always been about.”
Speakers also pointed to Biden’s run as vice president with Barack Obama, his history of reaching across partisan lines to accomplish things in the House and the Senate and his platform of increasing funding for Title I schools, closing the achievement gap, rehabilitation-focused prison reform and progressing toward universal health care.
“America’s future as an inclusive democracy for the rule of all people is literally hanging in the balance,” Price said. “As voters we have a special burden, we have a special responsibility to measure up at this critical point. We must make both a principle choice and a strategic choice for our standards — fortunately, Joe Biden is the person on both counts.”
Price said Biden has a strong history as a progressive politician, will have immediate credibility on the world stage and will be able to repair the “enormous dent” he said President Donald Trump has made on the reputation of the United States.
Biden said that his first actions if elected would be to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, to pass gun reform that would limit the unnecessary purchase of weapons and to invest $70 billion in HBCUs over 10 years.
Biden also encouraged supporters from North Carolina to vote to remove U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis.
“If North Carolina stands with me on Super Tuesday, there will be no stopping us,” Biden said. “And we will win the presidency.”
Biden ended on a pledge to support the middle class if he were elected president.
“The reason I am in this race is because so many people in this country have been left behind,” Biden said. “... Trump and his friends have it all wrong, they think Wall Street bankers and CEOs built this country. You built it.”