Warren makes first Minnesota stop in 2020 presidential bid

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during her first campaign speech in Minnesota at St. Paul's Macalester College Monday evening.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

Updated: 9:10 p.m. | Posted: 6:01 p.m.

Elizabeth Warren drew thousands of Minnesotans to St. Paul’s Macalester College for a campaign speech Monday, her first trip to the state as she seeks the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

In her nearly hour-long speech, the U.S. senator from Massachusetts gave her backstory and focused largely on economic inequality and political corruption.

“When you see a government that works great for the rich, for the well-connected, for those who can hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers and isn’t working so well for everyone else, that is corruption pure and simple,” she said. “And we need to call it out for what it is.”

The rally was billed as a town hall despite the candidate taking no questions from the public. It’s the main event in the campaign’s inaugural Minnesota trip.

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People began spreading out on a grassy field at Macalester more than two hours before Warren arrived, some passing the time with picnic lunches. The candidate stayed late to take pictures with attendees. She claimed she has taken over 50,000 selfies with supporters.

Spencer Kopp, a recent college graduate, said he’s backing Warren because of her emphasis on specific plans, namely her push to wipe out college debt.

“I always liked how bold she was. She was not really afraid to speak truth to power even before this new administration,” Kopp said. “But when she started talking about student loan forgiveness and cancellation, that was when I was really firmly in her camp.”

One of Warren’s biggest applause lines concerned imposing a 2 percent “wealth tax” on people with more than $50 million and her support for strengthening unions.

Paula Karjalahti, a retired chemist, is still weighing her Democratic choices but said she would love to have a woman win the White House. She said she prefers Warren over Amy Klobuchar, her home-state senator who’s trailing Warren in the race.

“I love Amy, too, but I want Amy here in Minnesota,” Karjalahti said.

No further talk on Minnesota environmental issues

In the days before her Minnesota visit, Warren spoke out against mining and pipeline proposals in Minnesota that have drawn criticism from environmentalists across the country.

Warren said she’d stop mining on federal public lands, if elected president. That ban would likely include Twin Metals’ proposed copper-nickel mine near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Critics of the mine say it could leak pollutants into the Boundary Waters, where mining is prohibited.

The senator also said she opposes the Line 3 oil pipeline replacement project. Minnesota regulators approved the pipeline last summer, but a court ruling earlier this summer held up the project for further environmental analysis.

However, she didn’t mention either project Monday. Rather, she focused on her background and the basic tenets of her campaign.

Warren spoke at length about climate change and how she’d address it, calling it a “crisis” situation.

“It’s 25 years of corruption in Washington that brought us to this point,” she told the crowd.

Minnesota primary still six months away

The presidential primary for Minnesota is March 3. Other Democrats who have stopped in Minnesota include Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind.; former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas; and Andrew Yang, a tech executive. Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar also is in the presidential hunt.

Bernie Sanders, an independent U.S. senator from Vermont, is expected to visit Minnesota later this month.

President Trump has vowed to win Minnesota in the 2020 election. Trump narrowly lost the state to Hillary Clinton in 2016, when fewer than 45,000 votes separated the two.

Warren’s candidate committee had raised $35.5 million as of the most recent reporting period, according to Open Secrets. Only the Sanders and Trump candidate committees had more money, with $46.1 million and $124.8 million, respectively.

Sheila Cunningham, who lives in St. Paul and is a technical writer for accountants, said Warren has everything she’s looking for in a candidate. However, Cunningham said she has doubts Warren would win Minnesota in the general election, citing Trump supporters in her own family as evidence.

“They refuse to see some of the things that are going on. They don’t recognize the children in cages. They don’t recognize sort of a dictator in the making. They just like that he’s good for business,” Cunnigham said. “I would love Warren to win. She fits my politics, but I think she’s too liberal for Minnesota. That’s my opinion. But I love her. I think she’s amazing.”

Warren is hosting a roundtable on criminal justice in Minneapolis on Tuesday.

Watch Warren’s campaign speech in Minnesota