Black voters in Nevada seek candidates who understand, are likely to act on their top issues

Former Nevada Assemblyman Harvey Munford greets former Vice President Joe Biden outside of Doolittle Community Center

Although Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders emerged as the definitive frontrunner after Nevada’s first-in-the-West caucus, he’s not leading with black voters — a pattern that showed in Nevada and could have implications in the coming South Carolina primary and beyond.

Thirty-nine percent of black voters who caucused opted for former Vice President Joe Biden compared to 27 percent for Sanders, according to entrance polls of the Nevada Caucus from The Washington Post. Biden’s lead is partly explained by his long history in the Democratic Party and well-established relationships with African American leaders and voters, especially during Barack Obama’s presidency.

About 84 percent of black voters identify as Democrats, with 8 percent identifying as Republicans. Regardless of who emerges as the Democratic nominee to face off against Donald Trump, black voters who spoke with The Nevada Independent said they hope that candidate follows through on the promises made along the campaign trail.

“Historically, we are the most staunch supporters of the Democratic Party; yet, when you look at the issues and the discussions, there seems to be a reluctance to talk about the issues in our community,” said Brian Harris, a Clark County resident and the creator of the 1,400-member Facebook group Independent Black Voters.

Harris, 59, said he’s registered nonpartisan but leans to the left. During a “Black Men’s Roundtable” hosted by California billionaire Tom Steyer’s campaign in Las Vegas earlier this month, Harris said that the Democratic Party as a whole “is not doing a good job with the black vote,” specifically when it comes to translating talking points and policies into action and meaningful investment in the black community.

After placing fourth and fifth in the Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses and taking second in Nevada, where about 10 percent of the population is black, Biden’s campaign is leaning into black voters for the South Carolina primary on Saturday in hopes of scoring a comeback. Black voters comprise 60 percent of South Carolina’s Democratic electorate, and a Feb. 21 poll shows 31 percent of those voters support Biden, compared to 18 percent for Sanders and 15 percent for Steyer.

However, a February Morning Consult poll shows that Biden’s support among black voters dropped 2 points after the New Hampshire primary, down from 33 to 31 percent, while Sanders and Bloomberg gained support as they gained traction in the presidential race at large.

The former vice president tied much of his electoral hopes in Nevada to black voters — at a rally in North Las Vegas, Biden cut his remarks short and surprised the crowd with several silver shuttles to Doolittle Community Center, a nearby early voting site in the city’s historically black neighborhood, where he and his wife chatted with local politicians and voters waiting to cast their ballots. 

In the days leading up to the caucus, Democratic presidential candidates hosted or attended other events in Nevada geared toward the African American voting base — Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar spoke at a Black History Month festival, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg spoke to the UNLV Black Law Students Association on Tuesday, and Biden and Buttigieg both spoke at Nevada Black Legislative Caucus’ Black History Month brunch.

Donna Darden, right, asks presidential candidate and former Mayor of South Bend Pete Buttigieg a question during the Black Empowerment Conversation at EllaEm's Soul Food in North Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

But black voters say that brief appearances and promises by candidates don’t mean much unless they amount to real change. A Black Census conducted in 2018 by Black Futures Lab, a left-leaning think tank, found 52 percent of black respondents believed that politicians do not care about black people.

For Harris, that means more than a one-time reparations check — it means policies that will help black businesses make more money and allow the community to accumulate “generational wealth.”  

“The amount of money that is spent in these political times is astronomical. But when you ask how much is spent in the black community ... there’s very little,” Harris said during the roundtable.

Ensuring equal opportunity

Ensuring that black communities both hold onto existing wealth and grow that wealth is a priority for Harris, who was one of the panelists during Steyer’s February roundtable. Harris pointed to a 2017 study that found that black households with advanced degrees have middle-class wealth or higher, compared to white households that can attain that same level with just a high school diploma.

The report also concluded that median wealth for black Americans is on a downward slope and threatens to reach zero by 2053 if the racial wealth divide is not addressed. It predicted that by 2020, black households have lost 18 percent of the wealth they had in 2013.

“Economically, there’s some things that can be changed, fixed, that would change that direction to zero [wealth],” Harris said. “While African Americans are owed a debt called ‘reparations,’ there’s more than just that that’s going on.”

Candidates in this presidential cycle have more frequently brought up the topic of reparations — financial compensation for African Americans whose ancestors were enslaved. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, introduced the first reparations bill in January 2019 and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker introduced a similar measure in the Senate — Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Klobuchar have co-sponsored that bill.

All Democratic candidates have said that they would support further studying what form reparations would take and how compensation would be distributed, which would be determined by a commission laid out in Lee’s bill.

When Booker announced in January that he was suspending his campaign — in close proximity to the withdrawals of the only other black candidates, California Sen. Kamala Harris and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick — many Democrats took it as a sign that the party was not doing enough to recruit and keep candidates of color for higher offices.

Presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker, hugs Lydia Saulsberry while she holds a Kamala Harris sign during U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford's Labor Day Cook Out at Craig Ranch Regional Park on Monday, Sept. 2, 2019. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Harris says that the pattern plays out in the workplace and with black businesses, too.

Diversity quotas or affirmative action initiatives such as those used in the 1960s throughout the '90s, might need to make a comeback to prevent discriminatory hiring, he said. The practice diminished when the Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that racial quotas are unconstitutional for university admissions, but that race may be one factor to be considered.

“A lot of the set-asides, diversity plans, the minority plans that are in place ... statistically, [these plans] have actually accelerated the demise of black business opportunities,” he said. “Things like quotas — yes, I said quotas — where 10 or 12 percent redistribution of wealth came back to the black community would change fundamentally that drive to zero [wealth] and get us to the point of being economically stable.”

None of the Democratic candidates have proposed implementing such quotas, but they have announced plans to increase diversity among American teachers, including expanding teacher training programs to more people of color and making higher education more affordable for low-income adults. 

Policing and mass incarceration of black Americans

The Black Lives Matter movement has prioritized systemic changes in the policing of black Americans, who are policed at a higher rate than any other group.

Leaders of the movement, which the Black Census says is supported by a majority of black voters, put forth a policy agenda that emphasizes police accountability, decarceration, reparations, economic justice and decreasing barriers to political representation.

Democrat Jagada Chambers, a fellow with the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada’s Mass Liberation Project who has lobbied lawmakers on policies aimed at reducing incarceration, says that he is optimistic that some candidates have promised actions to address these priorities.

Sanders and Warren, for example, have both said they would like to create a federal database of police use of force, which did not exist until 2019. The lack of information has posed an obstacle for activists and reformers to be able to quantify the extent of the impact of use of force. 

Political activist Cornel West, left, introduces presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders during the opening of the Bernie 2020 East Las Vegas Office grand opening on Saturday, July 6, 2019. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Chambers said he is concerned about the rising candidacy of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has spent an unprecedented $400 million plus on television ads to boost his candidacy. A Morning Consult poll from Wednesday found that the former mayor’s nationwide approval rate had increased since the Iowa caucus and now includes 20 percent of black Democratic primary voters.  

Bloomberg has been criticized for “stop-and-frisk” policies that were sanctioned and expanded while he was in office, but Chambers said he was still hesitant about supporting the billionaire.

“He’s said the right thing, but his history brings up a completely different story,” Chambers said in an interview ahead of the caucus. “There are definitely some people in this country who are flocking to Mr. Bloomberg and personally, I'm not. But I think now he's the candidate that definitely can shake this thing up.”

Historically, black Americans have been incarcerated in state prisons at rates five to ten times higher than white Americans. Chambers said that he’s still waiting for candidates to address the issue head on, and said one of his most important issues in the 2020 election was youth incarceration.

“No one wants to take that tangible step of making it constitutionally illegal to send a youth to adult court. That's something that I think is going to come out of our nomination,” Chambers said.

Improving education opportunities

Education is a major concern for black voters, with 77 percent of Black Census respondents identifying the rising cost of college as a major problem. Candidates have responded to these concerns with promises of tuition- and debt-free college and funding Historically Black College and Universities.

While they differ over what types of institutions and degrees should be tuition- or debt-free, all Democratic candidates have said that they would increase funding to low-income “Title I” K-12 schools and to HBCUs. Moderate candidates including Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar have promised to increase the maximum Pell Grant, a need-based award to defray the cost of college.

Several candidates have proposed policies that they say would diversify teachers to better reflect the student body — an issue in Clark County where the black student population is roughly 14 percent but black teachers make up just 7.6 percent of the staff.

Buttigieg’s “Douglass Plan” — a policy agenda focused on black Americans — called for mandatory diversity initiatives in education. Several other candidates have approached the diversity issue under the wider umbrella of funding HBCUs and minority-serving institutions to turn out more teachers of color.

Those priorities resonate with Akiko Cooks and J’Shauntae Marshall, whose children attend school in Clark County and say that the lack of diversity affects black students’ ability to learn.

“There needs to be a certain number of administrators of color as well as teachers, ongoing diversity programs and training that are mandated,” said Cooks, who co-founded the group No Racism in Schools.

Cooks and Marshall co-founded the group in 2019 after two white students targeted their children and other black students on social media and mentioned “Columbine part 2,” causing students and parents to panic that there would be a school shooting. No shooting occurred, and the two students responsible for racist comments were arrested.

“Teachers have to take a diversity course online, but they just click through it and there’s no accountability. There’s no one to say whether they received the information and whether they’re implementing it in the classroom,” Cooks said.

Cooks acknowledged that her priorities might be more in the purview of state and local government, but they have been looking at candidates whose policies would create a pathway for equity on campuses. She and Marshall said Biden, Sanders and Warren were among their top choices.

“They need to take a closer look at things that impact the day-to-day life of the common people … child care, housing,” Marshall said in an interview. 

Indy 2020: Sanders wins what may be Nevada’s last Democratic presidential caucus

Your Nevada 2020 election newsletter. Please read, forward and subscribe.


Hello, and welcome to Indy 2020, a biweekly newsletter focused on the 2020 election in Nevada. Now that the caucus is over, this newsletter will be going on hiatus until campaigning in Nevada picks up again. But be sure to subscribe and tell your friends so they can join us when we return.

Well, we made it! I was trying to do the math and I think, conservatively, I’ve been working somewhere in the ballpark of 96 hours a week since the beginning of the month, written some 40-plus stories and done some two dozen TV and radio hits. I am incredibly sleep-deprived and so ready for the world’s longest nap, but it’s been a rewarding experience and I’m grateful to all the Indy’s loyal readers for following along — and to my colleagues for helping me out on the 2020 beat this last week.

This newsletter will be a truncated version of our usual format — without the usual campaign nuggets and down ballot news — so apologies in advance for that. But we’ll go through some things to think about post-caucus as we move forward into South Carolina’s primary next week and Super Tuesday after that.

You know the drill. Email any tips, thoughts, questions, comments, suggestions and who you think the Baby Yoda to Mike Bloomberg’s Mandalorian is to megan@thenindy.com. Without further ado, a download of the recent 2020 happenings in Nevada.


TOP OF MIND

The results are in: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ win on Saturday wasn’t a huge surprise, but the margin was. He received 46.8 percent of delegates to the county convention with a 26.4-percentage-point margin over former Vice President Joe Biden, who came in second with 20.4 percent. Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg came in third with 13.9 percent, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren fourth at 9.8 percent, California billionaire Tom Steyer fifth at 4.6 percent and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar at 4.2 percent

This means Sanders should leave Nevada with 24 delegates, Biden with nine delegates and Buttigieg with three. The delegate math is kind of complicated, but essentially you have to clear 15 percent statewide in order to qualify for two types of delegates, known as at-large and PLEO (Party Leaders and Elected Officials) delegates, and only Sanders and Biden were able to do that. Buttigieg’s three delegates come from the pool of delegates allocated based on congressional districts — he came in second in the 2nd Congressional District (Northern Nevada), notching him two delegates, and third in the 3rd Congressional District (mostly suburban Clark County), netting him another one.

This tweet thread from Geoffrey Skelley over FiveThirtyEight breaks it all down.

So how did Bernie win? Mainly, a lot of early and smart organizing, and he had the money to do it. By Caucus Day he had more than 250 staffers on the ground, nearly double the size of the second largest team. (Biden had about 130 staffers here as of Caucus Day.) That allowed Sanders to both devote staffers to organizing in smaller pockets — i.e. Muslims for Bernie, Native outreach efforts and a final push for Culinary Union members — as well as just blanket the state. I sat down with Sanders’ team yesterday to talk about their final get-out-the-caucus strategy, which wasn’t so much nuance as brute force.

“One thing that’s up that’s a major trap about a caucus is people end up twisting themselves up, trying to figure out the puzzle and the strategy of all of it,” Peter Koltak, a senior adviser to the campaign, told me. “At some point it’s like if you hit hard everywhere, then you’re going to win.”

More on that from me here.

Nuggets from entrance polls: There is so much interesting information out of the entrance polls for Nevada’s caucus. Sanders won almost every single demographic: those aged 17 to 64, Latinos, white voters, women, men, Democrats, independents, first-time caucusgoers and previous caucusgoers, those with and without a college degree and union and nonunion households. Biden only won black voters, those 65 and older and those who oppose Medicare for all. If you want to explore this more, the Washington Post has a good article that sums it up in a really easy to read way.

An end to the caucus? By all accounts, Nevada’s caucus went relatively smoothly on Saturday — especially compared to Iowa’s caucus. For one, the Google Forms-based calculator used to transfer the results of early voting back to caucusgoers’ home precincts to be counted alongside their neighbors’ presidential preferences on Caucus Day appeared to work. There were some isolated reports of errors with the tool — my colleague Daniel Rothberg reported from Sparks High School that at one precinct the iPad reported zero realigned caucusgoers in the early vote — and other issues, including the late delivery of paper lists of early voters to some precincts, which caused some precincts not to check for double voters.

Had it been a close race, there might have been more fretting over these errors. So far, the only campaign to have actively complained about them is Buttigieg’s team, as I first reported yesterday. (The campaign sent the letter on Saturday just before midnight, at which point it appeared that Biden and Buttigieg were neck-and-neck for second in the race.)

All the same, former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, the architect of Nevada’s early caucus, called for all states to switch to primaries on Sunday.

I explored the ups and downs of what might very well have been Nevada’s last caucus in this piece, which published today.

Moving forward: So what happens now? Well, Sanders’ bump in Nevada is buoying him in South Carolina, a state where Biden had long held a lead. The latest polls have him at an average of about 21.4 percent to Biden’s 26.8 percent. But all eyes are on Super Tuesday, where Sanders could build an insurmountable lead.


ON THE INDY

The results story: In case you missed our results story, the final updated version is here. In it, a look at how each Democratic presidential hopeful did and how they addressed their wins and losses on Saturday night.

Our Caucus Day live blog: I know the caucus is well over by now, but my colleagues did a fantastic job running the live blog on Saturday. I’d like to give a shout out to all of them — Jackie Valley, Kristyn Leonard, Jazmin Orozco Rodriguez, Joey Lovato, Shannon Miller, Michelle Rindels, Riley Snyder, Tabitha Mueller, Luz Gray, Daniel Rothberg and Jacob Solis. Please take a look at their excellent work here. (They also did a great live blog on Friday ahead of the caucus, which you can read here.)

Precinct 1612: On Saturday, I embedded myself within one precinct at Durango High School to observe the caucus from start to finish. Things went relatively smoothly, except for a minor hiccup with figuring out how to orient the iPad and a minor scuffle between the precinct chair and an observer, who tried to interject during the caucus process. But if you want to see how the caucus is generally supposed to work, I’d recommend checking out my tick-tock on the process.

The rural Nevada impact: Daniel Rothberg and Tabitha Mueller did an excellent job with this story looking at how support in rural Nevada can turn the tides in the caucus. Even though the caucus is over, this is really important context to have as you look at the county-by-county results, which show Buttigieg won Douglas, Pershing, Nye and Lincoln counties and Steyer won Mineral County. Sanders won all of the other counties.

Trump in town: My colleague Jackie Valley followed around President Donald Trump for two days in Las Vegas, including his appearance at a Hope for Prisoners graduation on Thursday and a rally on Friday.

Biden on Obama-era deportations: Biden, more than a month after hinting his opposition to President Barack Obama’s controversial deportation policy at a town hall in Las Vegas, walked back those comments in an interview with me on Friday. More on my chat with him here.

Some caucus photo essays: Indy photographers fanned out across the state to observe the caucus process on Saturday. They got some fantastic shots that are really worth checking out. We also put together a photo essay of candidates making their final pitches to voters ahead of Saturday’s caucus here.

And so many other stories: If I listed all of the stories we’ve written in the last several weeks long, you’d never finish this newsletter! So if you’re interested, please check out the rest of our coverage — from the debate to outside spending in Nevada — here.


OTHER REQUIRED READING

  • Warren’s supporters struggled to make up their minds in Nevada (Slate)
  • After his big Nevada win, is anyone going to be able to beat Bernie Sanders? (BuzzFeed News)
  • Sanders wins big with Latino voters in Nevada (PBS NewsHour)
  • Takeaways from the caucus (Washington Post)

Sanders coasts to victory in Nevada’s Democratic presidential caucus, Biden wins second

Bernie Sanders on television screens at ReBar in Las Vegas

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders notched a decisive victory in Nevada’s presidential caucus on Saturday, cementing his frontrunner status and paving a clear road heading into South Carolina’s primary next week and Super Tuesday soon after.

The victory proved how the multi-generational, multi-racial coalition that Sanders has built could carry him to the Democratic presidential nomination, even as party establishment types fret privately and not-so-privately about what that would mean for the general election come November. During this campaign, Sanders has earned the nickname Tío Bernie, or Uncle Bernie, and his support among younger Latino voters was widely regarded as boosting his support among their parents and grandparents.

“The situation is heavy. It’s very hard for us Latinos,” said 72-year-old Margarita Lemus, a retired casino worker and native of Colombia who said in Spanish that she felt compelled to turn out for Sanders and move the country forward. “We have to unite, and I want them to treat us like we deserve.”

The victory also shows how far Sanders has come since launching a quixotic presidential bid four years ago and losing the state narrowly to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Sanders, with 100 percent of precincts reporting as of 12:17 p.m. on Monday, won with 46.8 percent support, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden at 20.2 percent, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 14.3 percent, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 9.7 percent, California billionaire Tom Steyer at 4.7 percent, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar at 4.2 percent. The Associated Press called the race for Sanders early Saturday evening.

If the wind was at Sanders’ back coming out of Iowa and New Hampshire, where he won the popular votes earlier this month, it now is even more so. And entrance polls reveal the broad coalition Sanders has built, with a NBC News entrance poll showing that 54 percent of Latinos supported the Vermont senator in Nevada’s Saturday contest. 

“In Latino homes ... we have a lot of respect for elders, right? We have a lot of respect for our older generations,” Luis Vasquez, the 22-year-old field director who oversees Sanders’ campaign operations in the heavily Hispanic East Las Vegas neighborhood, said about Sanders’ cross-generational appeal. “We live with them, we work with them, we've seen them farm, we've seen them run the household, we know the power of wisdom and the power of experience.”

The victory also serves as a stamp of approval from Nevada Democrats on Sanders’ progressive agenda, which calls for universal health care and free college tuition, among other proposals. Most Democratic elected officials in the state are fairly moderate, and, historically, center-left and center-right candidates have tended to fare well in Nevada elections.

Sanders also weathered a pre-caucus storm created by the Culinary Union, which circulated a one-pager that warned the Vermont senator would “end Culinary healthcare” if elected president. The Culinary Union, a political powerhouse in Nevada, chose not to endorse ahead of Nevada’s caucus, although Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Arguello-Kline mentioned Biden by name during their announcement, saying, “We know he’s been our friend.”

Sanders left Nevada before the Saturday victory to campaign in El Paso and San Antonio, Texas, but addressed the results from afar.

“Let me thank the people of Nevada for their support,” he said. “In Nevada we have just put together a multi-generational, multi-racial coalition that is not only going to win in Nevada, it's going to sweep this country.”

It wasn’t just Sanders’ message either. Building on the momentum of his 2016 campaign, the Vermont senator hired an experienced team of political operatives early on, and had more than 250 staffers on the ground in the Silver State before Caucus Day. The sheer size of the operation allowed the campaign to knock on more than half a million doors in Nevada before Saturday.

And the ground game proved effective. Emily Arrivello, 24, said she probably wouldn’t have come out to caucus for Sanders at the East Las Vegas Community Center if she hadn’t received texts and four or five calls this week from the campaign.

“I wasn't excited about it. I was debating coming but their persistence really convinced me,” she said.

But Sanders’ message resonated with her, too.

“I have a college degree, worked my butt off in college, but you know, jobs just aren't offering enough for me to live,” she said.

Saturday represented a victory of sorts for Biden, too, after his fourth- and fifth-place victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, respectively. Biden had dismissed his losses in those states on their lack of diversity and had been banking on his longstanding relationships with Nevada’s communities of color to carry him to victory in the Silver State.

It wasn’t quite a win, but the momentum could give Biden’s campaign renewed energy heading into South Carolina and Super Tuesday.

"We're alive and we're coming back and we're going to win,” said Biden, one of the few candidates who stuck around to wait for results to start coming out on Saturday, at an event with his supporters at a local union headquarters.

Buttigieg came in third place in Nevada, though his campaign has alleged errors in the Nevada State Democratic Party's tabulations.

In a speech at Springs Preserve Saturday evening, he took square aim at Sanders, who he said would continue the “polarization” that’s gripping this country. Buttigieg scored the most delegates out of Iowa’s caucus last month and came in a close second behind Sanders in New Hampshire. But the results out of Nevada show that a viable alternative to Sanders has yet to emerge from a muddled field of moderate Democratic presidential hopefuls. 

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was hoping for the kind of comeback Biden scored in Nevada, was still unable to separate herself from the field on Saturday. But her campaign manager Roger Lau said on Twitter on Saturday that Warren’s vote share went up more than 50 percent between early vote and Caucus Day, possibly buoyed by a strong performance at the Democratic presidential debate.

Several precinct chairs also noted to The Nevada Independent that Warren appeared to have a higher proportion of in-person supporters to early caucusgoers than other candidates, signaling a post-debate boost. The Democratic presidential debate was held on Wednesday, just one day after early voting wrapped up in Nevada.

“Her kick-ass debate performance Wednesday really solidified it,” said Avery Boddie, a 31-year-old librarian who caucused in Las Vegas for Warren. “I have been pretty undecided for this entire process. I thought that I would get here today and then finally figure who I was voting for. But Wednesday really clear things up for me.”

Steyer, meanwhile, failed to break out among the Democratic presidential field in Nevada after spending millions of dollars on television, radio and billboard ads in the state. Though he was hovering in the low double digits in the polls, that support doesn’t appear to have carried through to caucus sites.

“We don’t have official results, but I think we’re going to have a good night tonight,” Steyer told supporters Saturday evening.

Steyer is still banking on South Carolina, where he is polling at an average of 16 percent, and he told supporters here that he was catching a red eye to the Palmetto State.

After skyrocketing to third place in New Hampshire, Klobuchar also had a difficult night in Nevada. Though supporters here were intrigued by her campaign, the Minnesota senator appeared to have caught fire too little too late. She began staffing up in Nevada in November and had roughly 50 staffers on the ground before Caucus Day, but it didn’t appear to be enough to carry her to any substantial victory in the Silver State.

However, she remained undeterred, speaking to supporters in Minneapolis Saturday night.

“As usual, I think we have exceeded expectations. I always note that a lot of people didn't even think that I would still be standing at this point. They didn't think I'd make it through that speech in the snow. They didn't think I'd make it to the debate floor,” Klobuchar said. “But time and time again, because of all of you, and because of the people around this country that want something different than the guy in the White House, we have won."

Sanders’ youthful and energetic voters dominated at individual caucus sites but also sat alongside an older generation that showed a single-minded intention to back Sanders. Even among Democrats sympathetic toward progressives, though, the senator’s momentum introduces major doubts about the party’s ability to oust Trump.

“I am concerned about the possibility of like Bernie winning cause there's not a bone in my body that is sure that he can win. He's just a nonstarter,” Boddie said. “I find his campaign quite divisive. I see him and Trump as two sides of the same coin, just, you know, on the left.”

Riley Snyder, Michelle Rindels, Jackie Valley and Luz Gray contributed to this report.

Live Blog: Nevadans turn out to caucus

It’s finally here.

Months of organizing and television ads, a frantic two-week rush after New Hampshire, and Nevada Democrats are finally heading to caucus on Saturday morning to determine allocation of the state’s 36 unpledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Although the delegate haul is small, almost all of the party’s presidential hopefuls have made a concentrated effort to perform well in the caucus to continue or regain their campaign’s momentum.

Already, some 75,000 Democrats cast early vote ballots, which will be tabulated and counted alongside those of Democrats who show up today for the actual caucus process. Check-in starts at 10 a.m. PST, and the caucus will begin at noon. A list of the 252 caucus sites is available here.

Unlike normal elections, where the candidate with the most votes usually wins, caucuses have a few unique rules and twists. Candidates must achieve support from 15 percent of caucusgoers in each precinct to be deemed viable, and supporters of “nonviable” candidates in each precinct are free to realign with another candidate.

The delegate math is also different. Twenty-three of the state’s allocated 36 delegates will be doled out proportionally based on results from the state’s four congressional districts, and another 13 delegates awarded based on the statewide results. Candidates have to hit the 15 percent viability number in both statewide and congressional district totals to get a share of delegates.

The Nevada State Democratic Party will release four sets of results after the caucus is over:

  • The raw number of voters for first and final alignments
  • Total number of voters who “early voted” at each precinct
  • Total turnout in each precinct
  • Total number of county convention delegates won by each candidate at each precinct

It’s that final metric of county convention delegates that television networks and others will use to determine which candidate has “won” the caucus. The earliest that results could be released would be around 1 p.m., but the state party has not committed to releasing results today.

Although the caucus process is only for registered Democratic voters, anyone can show up and register with the party on Caucus Day and participate in the process.

If you see or hear of any issues at Caucus Day sites, please fill out this form to get in touch with The Nevada Independent.

6:29 p.m. Lee announces she backed Buttigieg in Nevada’s caucus

Susie Lee at a podium wearing a blue shirt
Susie Lee, who won the race for Nevada's 3rd Congressional District, gives her victory speech during the Nevada Democratic Party election night event at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Democratic Rep. Susie Lee, who had stayed neutral in the Democratic presidential race ahead of Nevada’s first-in-the-West nominating contest, announced Saturday that she backed former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Lee, in a statement, said that Buttigieg “understands how decisions in Washington affect families struggling to make ends meet on main street” and lauded his “straightforward approach to problem solving, integrity and leadership style.”

“I've long believed that Washington needs to focus more on bringing real results to our communities and less on partisan bickering,” Lee said. “I truly believe that Mayor Pete's message of consensus building and common sense solutions would make life better for my constituents.”

Lee added that she will support whoever wins the Democratic presidential nomination. Reps. Dina Titus and Steven Horsford endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden ahead of the caucus.

— Megan Messerly

6:25 p.m. Buttigieg goes after Sanders as he bids Nevada goodbye for now

Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks to supporters after Nevada's presidential caucus on Feb. 22, 2020 (Jana Sayson/The Nevada Independent)

Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg struck a battle-ready tone as he spoke to supporters Saturday evening in Las Vegas, where Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders sailed to victory in Nevada’s caucus.

It was still too early to tell how other Democratic contenders, including Buttigieg, fared in the first-in-the-West nominating contest, although his campaign released non-verified, independent results from volunteers indicating a second-place finish. The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, congratulated Sanders on his “strong showing” but then delivered a speech that didn’t mince any words when it comes to the sharp differences between the two candidates.

“I believe the best way to defeat Donald Trump and deliver for the American people is to broaden and galvanize the majority that supports us on the critical issues,” he said. “Senator Sanders believes in an inflexible, ideological revolution that leaves out most Democrats, not to mention most Americans. I believe we can defeat Trump and deliver for the American people by empowering the American people to make their own health care choices with Medicare for all who want it.”

Buttigieg went on to say that Sanders’ “tenor of combat and division and polarization” would do nothing to end the toxic political state of our nation. He pitched himself as the person able to mend those divisions, vowing to continue fighting in the race.

“We are moving on from this Battle Born state with a battle on our hands,” he said.

A supporter of former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg listens as he speaks after Nevada's presidential caucus on Feb. 22, 2020 (Jana Sayson/The Nevada Independent)

His caucus day appearance — moved inside at Springs Preserve after a torrential downpour — brought a standing-room-only crowd. Among the attendees was Jacob Lewis, 31, who changed his voter registration from Libertarian to Democrat this morning and caucused for Buttigieg.

Lewis called Buttigieg the “moderate choice” who’s a solid counterpoint to Trump. 

“I want politics to be boring again,” Lewis said. “That would be really nice.”

— Jackie Valley

5:56 p.m. Delays at Desert Oasis lead to a high energy caucus

Voters participate at a Democratic presidential preference caucus at Desert Oasis High School on Feb. 22, 2020. (Kristyn Leonard/The Nevada Independent)

Realignment at Desert Oasis High School was a heated process for caucus-goers, who gave impassioned speeches to unaligned voters in an attempt to garner more support for their candidates.

Tensions and passions were high after voters had to wait an extra hour and a half to begin the caucus, things finally getting underway at about 1:35 p.m. The delay was a result of missing early voter ballots, which caused check-in to begin an hour late.

For some, this delay served to further aggravate already negative opinions on the caucus. As the realignment process began for one precinct, a Biden supporter stood and urged unaligned voters to realign with “anyone but Bernie,” to try and limit his delegate lead. 

One Sanders supporter gave a passionate response.

“We have our own party working against us,” he said. He urged his fellow voters to help Sanders, “steamroll through the process,” toward the nomination, earning a round of cheering and applause.

For others, the delay seemed to be a bonding experience. Voters in another precinct were laughing even as they argued, pitching their candidates informally to the two unaligned voters. 

When one voter misspoke, accidentally voicing his support for “Bernie” rather than his chosen candidate “Biden,” the precinct erupted with laughter and the voter playfully sat in the Bernie section, hanging his head before jumping back to his feet to finish his speech.

“You know, any of them would be a good candidate,” he concluded with a good-natured shrug as he took his seat. 

—Kristyn Leonard

5:42 p.m. At Earl Wooster High School, questions and frustrations arise over implementation process of early votes and caucus votes 

Caucusgoers getting excited before causing by doing the wave at Wooster High School in Reno on Feb. 22 (Joey Lovato/The Nevada Independent)

About 50 people waited outside of Earl Wooster High School in Reno just before the 10 a.m. check-in time for the caucus. Among them were mostly volunteers for different candidate campaigns, chatting in the warm morning sun. 

Cassie Stewart, 25, tried to vote early on Tuesday afternoon but decided against it when she discovered a four-hour wait at Northwest Reno Library and deferred to caucus over the weekend instead. 

At precinct 2025, Stewart caucused for Sen. Bernie Sanders, whom she had also chosen in 2016. She said she had some concerns about the new caucus process because “there’s always wrinkles,” but said she hoped votes would be counted correctly. 

“That’s why we’re all here,” Stewart said. 

The precinct had a total of 12 in-person voters and 34 early votes for a total number of 46 people, making their group eligible for awarding three delegates. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren failed to get enough support to be considered viable in the precinct, despite four people present electing Sanders as their preferred candidate. 

The first alignment went smoothly, but the second and final alignment, where voters choose between their current candidates or jumping into another camp, hit a few snags.

First, voter DJ Racis, 36, corrected the volunteer tallying votes. 

“Well, at least with the way that [volunteers] were aligning it for the second vote here, they were basically tossing everybody's vote from the first time around,” he said. “So say for the Biden [voters], they had four people and all of a sudden they were saying zero in the final alignment. Well, that's not true. They had four people here and they still had four people.” 

The mistake was quickly corrected, but then others in the group began to question whether or not they should know the results of the early voters’ second choice candidates before they made their final choice. 

This was significant for the precinct because it could have determined whether or not the four people voting for Sanders would have changed their vote, depending on whether or not the early votes made Sanders a viable choice.

Precinct chair and precinct secretary adding up early voter totals after the first realignment during the caucus at Wooster High School on Feb. 22 (Joey Lovato/The Nevada Independent)

Precinct chair Alan Jordan, 69, said he personally felt it would have been better that the early votes second choices had been announced before the second alignment, but “[those are] not the rules.” 

Participants in the group seemed disgruntled about the implementation of the early votes and their inability to sway someone’s opinion, had the early voters actually been present. 

“Sure more people showed up for early voting, but your vote might not have gone to the person that you wanted to and you didn't get to influence other people to join your group,” Racis said. “It takes away from the purpose of a caucus and might as well just make it a primary, if that's going to be the case.” 

Elsewhere at the high school, the results of precinct 2025’s votes awarded three delegates, one each to Joe Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar. 

Jess Kitchimgman, 22, was a first-time caucus-goer and was the first to show up at the site. The temporary precinct chair for her precinct asked if she wanted to be the precinct secretary and Kitchimgman was running around her designated precinct area counting voters and helping organize everyone during realignment.

“I think a primary would definitely have a lot more people turn out for it because the caucus kind of makes things unnecessarily complicated and time-consuming.”

Janice Serial, 62, was the site lead at Wooster High School. After most voters had left and the precinct chairs were getting their paperwork together she was helping clean up and answer any questions people still around had.

“I think it went very, very well, given all the barriers we had in the beginning,” she said. “I am hearing from all the temporary caucus chairs, so yes, it went really really well. We had some snafus in logging in, in the beginning only on one when iPad and got that resolved quickly.”

Janice felt that turnout was good considering the number of people that early voted. She was one of the few people interviewed that said she preferred the caucus.

“I'm very old school and I grew up here. I grew up in the era of caucusing and I love everything to be grassroots oriented.”

— Jazmin Orozco Rodriguez and Joey Lovato

5:32 p.m. Previously incarcerated voters caucus in historic African American precincts 

Volunteers at the Doolittle Community Center in North Las Vegas work out delegate math during the state's Democratic presidential caucus on Feb. 22, 2020. (Jana Sayson/The Nevada Independent)

At the Doolittle Community Center in Las Vegas’ historic African American neighborhood, about 70 caucus participants voted for their preferred candidates and volunteers calculated the number of delegates awarded to each — 48 for Sen. Joe Biden, 27 for Sen. Bernie Sanders, 20 for Tom Steyer and 5 for former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. 

The community center was the site for six caucus precincts in the Historic Westside neighborhood, where Las Vegas’ African American population is concentrated. The trend dates back to the city’s history of segregation in which black residents were confined to an area on the west side of the railroad tracks.  

Before the caucus was called to session at noon, one voter — 54-year-old Carmelo Adams — recalled seeing segregation among the city’s neighborhoods when his family moved out of the Westside in 1976. 

“The only black people I knew who lived on that side of Decatur [Boulevard] was us,” Adams said. 

Adams said he has known for the last couple of weeks that he plans to caucus for California billionaire Tom Steyer. 

“All the candidates are talking about the same old things — Medicare for All … none of it is really working. It’s not working for the ones who need it, it’s not working for the ones who don’t need it either,” Adams said. 

Mark Armstrong, left and Carmelo Adams

Adams said that he was incarcerated for 20 years and has been unemployed for 12 years since his release because of difficulties finding a job that will look past his criminal record. 

But Adams is taking advantage of a new law allowing all formerly incarcerated people in the state to vote. When it passed in 2019, the law was expected to affect up to 77,000 Nevadans with some estimates saying that 17,000 formerly incarcerated voters would turn up at the polls.

One of the six precincts at the Doolittle caucus site had zero early voters and zero in-person participants. A second precinct had “first and final” viability, meaning that all of the caucus goers’ candidates met the Nevada Democrats’ viability threshold — 15 percent for most precincts. 

The four remaining precincts had to go through a realignment process, during which community members and campaigners had an opportunity to pitch their candidates if they were viable. Sanders and Steyer’s campaigns each had at least three volunteers available to do so. Biden and Buttigieg both had at least one volunteer from their campaigns present. 

Participants from two of the six precincts lingered after 1:00 p.m. for a second alignment and to make sure delegates were correctly calculated before reporting final caucus results.  

Volunteers at the Doolittle Community Center in North Las Vegas work out delegate math during the state's Democratic presidential caucus on Feb. 22, 2020. (Jana Sayson/The Nevada Independent)

Biden, Sanders and Steyer were awarded delegates from five of the precincts. All five of Buttigieg’s awarded delegates came from a single precinct. 

Mark Armstrong, 53, said his priorities for this election include better education and economic opportunities for the families in his neighborhood and for formerly incarcerated people like his sister. 

He took aim at Buttigieg for “screwing over” black residents in his home community of Indiana. After the police shooting of a black man in South Bend in 2019, some residents faulted Buttigieg, who was mayor until Jan. 2020, for failing to address racial issues between the city’s police and black residents, which have been long standing according to some local activists. 

“When it comes to blacks and racism, he needs to shut his mouth,” Armstrong said. 

Shannon Miller

5:19 p.m. Biden frames himself as comeback kid in Vegas victory rally

Former Vice President and presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks after the Nevada Democratic Caucus at IBEW Local 357 on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Former Vice President Joe Biden was jubilant as he took the stage at a Las Vegas union hall, framing the preliminary results of the Nevada caucus as his big comeback and the beginning of him turning the race around in spite of a projected victory in the state by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The only candidate aside from California billionaire Tom Steyer and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg to remain in Nevada and make a personal appearance at a victory party on Caucus Day as official results were trickling in, Biden gave a brief speech at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers hall alongside his wife Jill. An enthusiastic crowd yelled “first lady!” to his Jill Biden and “comeback kid!” to Joe Biden, who said in his speech that the press liked to declare people dead.

"We're alive and we're coming back and we're going to win,” he said.

Former Vice President and presidential candidate Joe Biden and his wife Jill greet supporters after the Nevada Democratic Caucus at IBEW Local 357 on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

At the time of the rally, CNN was reporting Biden was in second place in the Nevada contest, after finishing fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire. He promised wins in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday.

“This is an important moment,” Biden said. “We're gonna look back on this and say this was the beginning of the fundamental change.”

He urged his supporters to donate and to “just keep moving,” joking that “we're going to have more help coming from a Vladimir Putin, [who] wants somebody who doesn't think can beat Trump” — a subtle dig at Bernie Sanders. Reports Friday from The Washington Post indicated Sanders was briefed that Russia was trying to help his campaign.

— Michelle Rindels

5 :08 p.m. - Precinct chairs, site leads report some problems but mostly smooth sailing at caucus

A woman holds her voter card during the Nevada Democratic Caucus at East Las Vegas Community Center on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Despite fears of a rocky caucus process, seven precinct chairs and site leads told The Nevada Independent Saturday afternoon that they were able to run their caucuses without incident and that a hastily developed iPad-based caucus calculator was easy to use.

The biggest challenge to the integrity of the caucus results appears to be the fact that a list of Democrats who voted early — supposed to be cross-referenced during the check in process to prevent early voting — were delivered late to caucus sites. Some volunteers told the Independent that they either never received the list of early voters or didn’t realize that was the document they had been delivered last minute by party runners Saturday morning.

The party wasn’t immediately able to specify what protocol it has in place to ensure that any double votes are accounted for during the party’s review of the caucus results, and how it would count someone’s vote in the event that they ended up voting twice.

According to multiple people with knowledge of the situation, dozens of volunteers — some of them from out of state — worked late into the night at the party’s ballot processing hubs in order to get the 75,000 early votes ready to be transmitted to their home precincts to be counted on Caucus Day. The party had initially promised to send campaigns a list of people who early voted on the fourth and final day of early voting, but campaigns did not receive that list until Saturday morning.

Caucus volunteers also reported issues with reaching a reporting hotline that they were supposed to call into with their results. Some precinct chairs ultimately decided to text in a picture of their results to a number provided by the party — which was supposed to be a secondary verification step — but skipped the caucus reporting step. Others received a backup reporting hotline numbers and were able to call in their results later.

They also reported some confusion among caucusgoers about the realignment process. Non-viable candidates were required to convince additional in-person supporters to join their group in order to become viable, though some were under the impression that early votes could also be used to make their candidate viable.

— Megan Messerly

5:05 p.m. - Culinary Union: next nominee should focus on ‘securing’ healthcare for all without threatening union healthcare plans

The attendees at a Culinary Union event all wearing red shirts
Union members cheer while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during the UNITE HERE Culinary Union Town Hall in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

The Culinary Workers Local 226 union, which opted not to endorse a presidential candidate but sharply criticized Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for all proposal, said in a statement that Democrats need to focus on “securing healthcare for all” while “maintaining a choice for Culinary Union members to keep what we’ve built over the last 85 years.”

The union issued the statement shortly after most media networks called the race for Sanders, who appeared well on his way to winning the state’s 2020 caucus by a double-digit margin, though the vast majority of results have not yet been reported.

“The Democratic Caucus is the first step in defeating Trump on Election Day, and high turnout in the Nevada Caucus is a victory for working people and the democratic process,” union head Geoconda Argüello-Kline said in a statement.

The union made no secret of its distaste of Sanders’ signature healthcare plan, sending flyers to union members last week warning that it could threaten union-negotiated health plans. But Sanders appeared to win most of the Las Vegas strip caucus locations, which were largely attended by Culinary Union members, on Saturday.

The statement also said the next Democratic nominee should focus on winning comprehensive immigration reform including a path to citizenship for undocumented individuals, ensuring that “One Job Should Be Enough” for every working and defeating Trump in the general election.

— Riley Snyder

4:38 p.m. - Rural caucus goes off smoothly, voters said they feel confident in the process

Voters in Fallon meet to participate in Nevada's Democratic presidential caucus on Feb. 22, 2020 (Tabitha Mueller/The Nevada Independent)

Just more than fifty caucus-goers arrived at Epworth United Methodist Church in Fallon on Saturday morning to participate in Churchill County's caucus. 

Nine precincts were at the site, and despite two precincts' lacking chairs, the caucus process went off smoothly in a county with just 25,000 residents.

Melissa Lattin, 42, was caucusing for the first time and said she switched parties after President Donald Trump was elected in 2016.

Lattin added that she was not involved with politics until the election, but in a conservative-leaning county, she has received some push-back from friends, neighbors and family members for her political views.

"We don't talk politics in my house; we're a house divided," she said with a laugh.

Although this was her first caucus, Lattin was a precinct captain for Warren, and she said she knocked on roughly 100 doors in preparation for Caucus Day.

"I'm super nervous. I've never caucused before. Everybody here has been super helpful and, it's been so cohesive," she said. "We all want our own person to win, but we're all like, yeah, whoever gets it, we're going to be out there knocking doors for them too."

Caucus-goers who attended the 2016 caucus noted turnout was lower than in the past, which site officials attribute to the new early voting option. 

Everett George, 26, said he chose to caucus instead of early voting so he could have conversations about the candidates.

Voters in Fallon meet to participate in Nevada's Democratic presidential caucus on Feb. 22, 2020 (Tabitha Mueller/The Nevada Independent)

"This is the most participatory way to do it. This is the way that you actually feel more active in doing it," he said. "It's pretty cool to be a part of that. It's pretty cool to see things happening in real-time."

George said he was caucusing for Sanders, who speaks to George's concerns about healthcare, income inequality and a lack of affordable higher education. 

"One of the main reasons why I don't go to college is because it's gonna, put you in debt," he said. "It's nice to have somebody saying that people deserve a break."

During the caucus, voters split into their designated precinct and began discussing candidates. Although there was some initial confusion about the process, the site lead addressed questions, and voters made it through the process relatively quickly.

"I enjoyed it immensely," voter Sylvia Bowles, 71, said. "I got to meet new people from my little town here that I never get to see or interact with and, and listened to their stories too, as well as talk to them about my candidate Pete Buttigieg."

Although Warren was not viable in her precinct, Lattin said she felt confident about the process.

"I don't have anything to compare it to cause this is my first time, but I thought it was run very well," she said. "The guy who was in charge of our precinct really walked us through it. He was very open and like, 'does everybody agree with this?' or, you know, 'are our numbers matching?' So I thought it was fantastic."

Hannah Arthur, said she was comforted by the high participation in early voting and that the caucus this year went more smoothly than the one she attended in 2016.

"I watched the numbers, the calculations. We had somebody on an actual calculator doing the calculations herself and it was lining up with what the app was saying," she said. "So I felt more confident that … my vote is getting counted."

— Tabitha Mueller

4:27 p.m. - Too late to vote at East Las Vegas caucus site

Caucus goers Bertha Ríos and Alfonso Fúnez Vega line up to caucus at East Las Vegas Community Center on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

About 150 voters spread out across the East Las Vegas Community Center gym, where 10 precincts met — some large and lively, others small and subdued.

At at least two precincts, people were translating the action into Spanish. In one small group with just 13 people who showed up in person, a man wearing Bernie Sanders gear was translating for Alfonso Fúnez Vega and Bertha Ríos, who acknowledged they needed help understanding the proceedings.

All the precinct’s delegates went to Sanders. That was fine by Vega, 70, and Rios, 74, who had come with the express intent of voting for Sanders.

After many of the attendees had left the venue, Maura Martinez arrived at the community center at about 2:30 p.m., visibly anxious to vote in the caucus. But the El Salvador native got some unexpected news — she had arrived too late.

“They only said that it was going to open at 10 a.m.,” Martinez, 66, said in Spanish. “Why don’t they make the caucus on a Friday, to vote all day? I’m frustrated.”

While she said she had received a lot of advertising from Michael Bloomberg, she was ready to vote for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. She said she liked Sanders for his experience and consistency, especially on health care and immigration.

“If [Sanders] had been allowed to govern for years, we wouldn’t be where we are now,” she said. “Bernie has diplomacy, and he’s a peacemaker. He hasn’t allowed millionaires to direct his campaign.” 

She also lamented that Sanders hadn’t come to the caucus sites, as some of the other candidates did.

“I thought that we were going to see Bernie,” she said. “Why didn’t he come? He had to be where there’s voting.”

CJ Slayton came to the caucus site supporting Pete Buttigieg, while her husband Jim came in backing Amy Klobuchar. But as the couple headed for the door Saturday afternoon, CJ clutching her “Caucus for Pete” sign against the bar of her walker, they left as Elizabeth Warren voters.

“I really would like to have seen him do better,” CJ Slayton, 72, said about Buttigieg — a candidate she says brings a fresh face and new ideas in a field of familiar ones. 

“We've been disappointed before,” Jim added.

At their small precinct in the middle of the noisy community center gym during realignment, CJ and Jim were subject to the earnest pleadings of a Warren supporter, who helped make the case that ultimately changed their mind toward the Massachusetts senator.

“I'm very much opposed to Bernie being the candidate so it was a vote for Warren to help take away some delegates from Bernie,” CJ said.

By the end, it was the site lead that was doing the math at the Slaytons’ precinct — after some problems earlier with the complicated process.

“I was very glad to see somebody different come to our table because the lady had just gotten training in the morning,” she said. “That's one of the weak points that can happen is people that don't know math.”

— Luz Gray and Michelle Rindels

4:05 p.m. Sanders leading at Sparks High School, with results delayed by manual review of precinct after an iPad failure

Volunteers bring boxes of material into Sparks High School to participate in the 2020 Nevada Democratic caucus on Feb. 22, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Campaigns raised questions at a Sparks High School precinct with seven county delegates, prompting a manual review of early votes. 

"There was a failure of the iPad, clearly," said Carissa Snedeker, the site lead and the First Vice Chair for the Washoe Democrats.

Several caucus attendees said that caucus-goers left after the first alignment, and there was confusion over how the early vote was tabulated. After an iPad reported zero realigned caucus-goers in the early vote, it raised further concerns about the results. 

That prompted Snedeker to do a manual review of the early votes. It found that the iPad reporting was inaccurate, Snedeker said.

After the review, the precincts' two viable candidates, Democratic candidate Tom Steyer and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, picked up several early votes. Once the math was re-calculated, Sanders was awarded four county delegates and Steyer picked up three. 

"We got the numbers," she said. "We agreed. Everyone signed off."

According to the preliminary math, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders picked up at least half of the 13 precincts at Sparks High School. 

The competition was largely over runner-up, and several candidates placed in second at certain precincts, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Steyer and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

— Daniel Rothberg

3:59 p.m. - Nevada Republicans bind delegates to Trump

President Donald Trump reacts to the audience during a rally at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

With almost no results in the Democratic presidential caucus reported, Nevada Republicans made it easy — voting to allocate all of the state’s delegates to the Republican National Convention to incumbent President Donald Trump.

The party’s central committee voted by acclamation — meaning by voice vote, and without an individual ballot — to unanimously allocate all of the state’s delegates to Trump during its winter meeting in Pahrump on Saturday afternoon.

The party adopted a rule change last year to create a process giving all delegates to the incumbent president, avoiding a mass presidential preference caucus. “Our vote by acclamation to endorse the President and bind our delegates to him sends a strong, unified message that we are ready to fight and deliver our state for President Trump against whichever socialist the other side nominates,” state party chair Michael McDonald said in an email.

2:51 p.m. - At Coronado High School precinct, caucus calculator functions without hitch

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks to voters outside of Coronado High School during Nevada's Democratic caucus on Feb. 22, 2020(Jacob Solis/The Nevada Independent)

At precinct 1608, the much-fretted over introduction of the Google Forms-based caucus calculator went off without issue. Precinct chair Ruben Murillo, a former teachers’ union leader, told The Nevada Independent that he was pleased with the training he received from the state’s Democratic party and said that “what they said was going to happen, happened.”

“This is my third caucus, and this one, top of the three,” Murillo said. “But I hope we don’t have any more caucuses, I hope this is the last one.”

And among the voters in the room, several said they were impressed with the speed of the process — though they would still prefer a primary over a caucus. 

“It turned out wonderful,” voter Carol Tipton said. “All of our apps worked, when we needed the numbers they were there for us, we were able to go onto the next step without any problems at all. When you come to caucus, you know you have to give time. We were here several hours, but that’s what a caucus is.”

Proceedings were only briefly delayed after there was some confusion regarding how those in the only non-viable group — a gaggle of eight Warren supporters — could redistribute themselves, and whether or not they would be able to become viable after realignment from early vote tallies. 

Biden, Sanders and Buttigieg supporters had formed the only three large, viable groups in the room, and even with the support of some early voters, that handful Warren supporters were the only free votes heading into the second alignment. But most of them, six of the eight, didn’t budge — leading to a prolonged debate among those in the room about just who gets to benefit from realignment.

The discussion finally settled after a site lead confirmed that the Warren voters could remain in their group “as if they had left the room.” It was a moot point, however, as Warren gained no support on realignment, with Biden taking the precinct (45 votes and four delegates), while Buttigieg (35 votes, three delegates) and Sanders (33 votes, three delegates) were left virtually tied. 

Still, a Warren precinct captain, Sharon Downes, said she remained hopeful that Warren would still do well in Nevada and beyond. 

“I think we’re going to see different results for Warren, especially since the debate was such bad timing,” she said. “If we would have had them debate before the early voting, I think she would have had more votes in this caucus, I really do.”

This was all despite a last-minute visit from Warren herself, who briefly swung by Coronado with a box of Dunkin’ donuts in tow. Following a number of selfies with volunteers or voters decked out in the seafoam green of the Warren campaign, the Massachusetts senator thanked those in the check-in line, saying of democracy that “that’s what this is all about.”

— Jacob Solis

2:15 p.m. — Biden collects most delegates at Paris casino site; Steyer hangs on to viability

Casino workers participate in the Nevada Democratic caucus inside the Vendome Ballroom at the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Tom Steyer seemed in a bind during the first alignment period at a Paris casino-resort caucus site Saturday afternoon.

He had six supporters sitting in his section, but needed eight people to hit the 15 percent needed to remain viable at this Las Vegas Strip site, where 54 shift workers donning work uniforms participated in the Democratic presidential caucus. 

Four undecided voters stood in the middle of the Parisian-themed ballroom as the 15-minute first alignment period dwindled. Then, as the deadline approached, three of them grabbed seats in the Steyer section, along with one other caucus-goer, pushing the California billionaire and activist into viability. 

In the end, former vice president Joe Biden won 14 delegates for the county convention at this caucus site, followed by seven delegates for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, six for former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and six for Steyer. The site had 33 delegates total to award.

Treniece Parks, a call center employee at Bally’s hotel and casino, was one of the undecided voters who tipped the scales for Steyer. The 58-year-old arrived only knowing that she didn’t want to cast a vote for Biden or Sanders. 

“I had never heard of him,” Parks said, referring to Steyer.

But she found herself in his section after hearing a few things about him and realizing he was on the threshold of viability. This was her first time caucusing, and Parks said she expected to receive more information from campaign volunteers at the site.

Still, Parks expressed satisfaction with her last-minute choice.

“We don’t need Social Security taken away,” she said. “We don’t need our insurance taken away.”

Rochelle Schneider does math as casino workers participate in the Nevada Democratic caucus inside the Vendome Ballroom at the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Others entered the site with a clear candidate in mind. Yosbel Mora, a Culinary Union member and a houseperson at Paris, came in knowing he’d caucus for Biden because “he was Obama’s vice president.”

But the casino caucus site also drew at least two tourists who chose the Democratic nominating process as their entertainment for the afternoon. Pamela Madeiros and Brent Bogardus — both from upstate New York — came to Las Vegas for a wedding earlier in the week but decided to see what a caucus looks like firsthand as observers.

New York will hold its primary election on April 28.

Madeiros, a Democrat, didn’t have any predictions about who would emerge victorious in Nevada.

“I don’t know,” she said. “That’s why we’re so anxious to kind of see what the fever is.”

While Biden emerged the victor at this site, it’s only a small sampling of Nevada caucus participants. The Paris casino-resort — one of several Las Vegas Strip caucus sites — was open to casino workers in a 2.5-mile radius.

Casino workers check in to participate in the Nevada Democratic caucus inside the Vendome Ballroom at the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

But the Paris was an outlier compared to other Strip casino-resorts. Sanders was reported to have won the most delegates at the Bellagio, MGM Grand, Park MGM, Rio and Wynn, and tied at Harrah’s.

As the caucus-goers grabbed boxed lunches before heading back to work, Rep. Dina Titus thanked them for their participation. 

“This is really democracy in action,” she said. “It means a lot to have you participating.”

— Jackie Valley

1:13 p.m. - Buttigieg makes final pitch at Sierra Vista High School

Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks to a voter outside of Sierra Vista High School on Feb. 22, 2020 (Kristyn Leonard/The Nevada Independent)

At Sierra Vista High School, volunteers for Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren waited out front with umbrellas, welcoming voters in as they rushed in out of the rain.

When the sun finally came out, voters and volunteers were joined by some welcome guests— girl scouts selling cookies, and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. 

As Buttigieg entered the courtyard of the high school, voters crowded the candidate and cheered him on, one caucus-goer shouting “Go Hoosiers!” as he walked by.

The former South Bend Mayor spent the next 15 minutes walking through the school, greeting voters from various precincts as he made his way through the halls, the theater, and the school gym. His visit seemed to lift spirits in the school, where many voters were uncertain about how the process would work out.

Volunteers had let voters wait inside before 10:00 a.m. to keep them out of the rain, letting 10-20 people at a time into the lobby of the school’s theater to check in. The process ran smoothly as volunteers separated voters into “already registered” and “need to register” lines, checked them in, and sent them on their way with directions to their precinct’s room.

Carla Brown, 34, was there to caucus for Elizabeth Warren. She was unable to participate in early voting but knew she had to participate in the caucus today so she could, “get a say in who is going to lead.”

Fellow caucus-goer Kelly James had the chance to early vote, but chose to caucus today because she had never done it before.

“I’m actually from Iowa, so, yeah, I grew up with my parents going to the caucus,” said James. “I’m really excited to see the process play out and how this works.”

James was also excited to be able to meet Pete Buttigieg, who she says is her second choice candidate today behind Amy Klobuchar.

James admitted she hadn’t looked up any materials or attended any trainings before the day of the caucus.

“I’m here winging it,” she said. 

—Kristyn Leonard

12:30 p.m. - Thousands of volunteers turn out on caucus day

Casino workers check in to participate in the Nevada Democratic caucus inside the Vendome Ballroom at the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

The Nevada State Democratic Party announced that about 2,000 volunteers had shown up to caucus sites around the state, with an average of 8 volunteers at each site.

The announcement comes amid some media reports that volunteers are not showing up on caucus day and that the party may need campaign volunteers to help staff various caucus sites.

Party spokeswoman Molly Forgey said it was “common and not unusual” for campaign volunteers to help with running precincts, and that similar arrangements happened in 2008 and 2016.

Two campaign aides, who asked not to be identified, said they were not concerned about volunteer turnout and that it was “pretty run of the mill.”

12:22 p.m. - Sanders dominates with young voters, Latinos in entrance poll

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a rally at Springs Preserve on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Nevada’s 2020 presidential caucus is finally underway, and an entrance poll shows Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders with massive leads among young and Latino voters.

The entrance poll, which was conducted by Edison Media Research and polled of 2,122 voters (primarily early voters) and released after the start of the caucus, shows Sanders with support of 51 percent of Hispanic voters, far above former Vice President Joe Biden at 13 percent.

Sanders also led with white voters (31 percent) over former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (18 percent) and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (13 percent). Biden led with black voters (36 percent) followed by Sanders (25 percent), California billionaire Tom Steyer and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (both at 13 percent). 

Among voters over 45 years old, Biden and Sanders both obtained roughly 20 percent in the entrance poll, followed by Buttigieg (16 percent) and Klobuchar (15 percent). 

But among voters under 45, Sanders dominated — an estimated 60 percent of the vote, distantly followed by Buttigieg (13 percent) and Warren (11 percent). 

11:16 a.m. - Julian Castro, bilingual staffers and rain gear at East Las Vegas caucus site

Caucus goers stand in line at East Las Vegas Community Center on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

A steady rain didn’t deter about 80 voters who were either in line or waiting for the caucus to begin about half an hour after the East Las Vegas Community Center voting site opened.

Pink and red umbrellas from poncho-wearing campaign representatives standing outside added a pop of color to the gray day. The center, in a heavily Hispanic neighborhood, is the meeting place for 10 precincts and staffers were shouting out directions in both English and Spanish.

“I think people are really excited,” said site lead Christina Lopez. “We don't really have a fair estimate of what to expect today because we have that unprecedented number of early votes.”

Lopez said early voting materials and sufficient iPads had arrived at the site in time, but that with not enough people, some volunteers would be leading the caucus process for multiple precincts. Volunteers will be using a new process of transmitting results to the party after the state scrapped its initial app-based plan following an app debacle in the Iowa caucuses.

“I do think that there was plenty of training available, whether volunteers took advantage of that I think is up to them,” Lopez said. “But I do think that we have a really talented team here today and you know, they're only going to send the best to a site that does large as this one.”

The line didn’t extend outside into the drizzle, but those waiting got a surprise when former presidential candidate and Elizabeth Warren surrogate Julian Castro — wearing a blue suit and a green tie in the mint green of Warren’s campaign signs — started mingling with the attendees and taking selfies.

The site also attracted Eleni Kounalakis, California’s Democratic lieutenant governor.

Seventy-two-year-old Margarita Lemus, a retired casino worker, came in spite of the rain.

“As they say in English, ‘I must do it,’” she said about her decision to come out. 

Lemus, who planned to caucus for Sen. Bernie Sanders, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Amy Klobuchar as alternate choices.

“In general I like to support the women,” said Lemus, who is originally from Colombia and has lived in Las Vegas for 38 years. “We have to move forward.”

She’s been troubled by the constant changes in immigration policy under the Trump administration.

“The situation is heavy, it’s very hard for us Latinos,” she said. “We have to unite and I want them to treat us like we deserve.”

— Michelle Rindels and Luz Gray

10:48 a.m. — Sparks High School

Voters line up outside of Sparks High School to participate in the 2020 Nevada Democratic caucus on Feb. 22, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

A few dozen caucus-goers lined up at Sparks High School before 10 a.m., a smaller group than in 2016 likely due to this year’s early voting option, according to one organizer. 

Once the doors opened, caucus-goers checked in with volunteers and were separated into 13 precincts, some in the gym and some sent to classrooms in the school.

Mike Stowell, wearing a bright green Mt. Rushmore cap and t-shirt touting his support for Vice President Joe Biden, said he wants to see a candidate with experience and who was willing to work together on tough political issues.

“Some of the others are my way or the highway, and that does not work,” said Stowell, whose family came to Nevada in the 1800s with gold mining and homesteading. 

As voters waited for the caucus to begin, a caucus observer for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said that he wanted a candidate who advocated for structural change. 

Jonathan Gage Copenhaver, who moved to Nevada three years ago from San Francisco, said he was particularly concerned about the pervasiveness of big money in politics. 

“For me, it’s about getting corporate money out of democracy,” he said. 

— Daniel Rothberg

More than 10,000 register as Democrats to early vote, party announces

Paperwork as seen during the Nevada Democratic caucus inside the Vendome Ballroom at the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Shortly before lines were scheduled to open on Saturday, the Nevada State Democratic Party announced that more 10,000 voters registered with the party during a four-day early voting period prior to the caucus.

The party saw more than 75,000 people turn out and cast a ballot during the early vote period between Feb. 15 and 18. Participating in the caucus requires a voter to be a registered Democrat, but the party allows on-site party registration for anyone who shows up to participate.

“With more than 10,000 Nevadans newly registering as Democrats during early voting, it’s clear that we are bringing a wave of new voters into our party and building a growing coalition who will mobilize for our nominee in November,” Nevada State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy II said in a statement.

The new registrations will bolster the party’s advantage in registered voters over Republicans. As of January 2020, roughly 611,000 voters in the state were registered Democrats, compared to 527,600 Republicans — about a 5 percent difference.

While a Sanders victory seems likely, no one knows how Nevada’s Democratic caucus will go otherwise

Four years ago, almost to the day, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders took the stage at the Henderson Pavilion to announce that he had lost the Nevada caucus.

But he was, surprisingly, upbeat. That’s because Sanders, with his quixotic, longshot campaign calling for a political revolution, had only lost to Clinton, running with the full force of the Democratic Party establishment behind her, by a little more than 5 percentage points. In the months leading to the caucus, he had been projected to lose by some 20, 30 or 40 points to the former secretary of state.

“We have come a very long way in nine months. It is clear to me, and I think most observers, that the wind is at our backs,” Sanders said. “We have the momentum.”

And he was right. It just took a little bit longer than Sanders had anticipated.

Now, somehow, the likeliest thing heading into Nevada’s first-in-the-West nominating contest on Saturday is that Sanders will win, likelier even than the chance the Democratic Party voting goes off without a hitch in the wake of Iowa’s problem plagued-contest earlier this month.

Sanders has, as he projected four years ago, had the wind at his back. He received the most raw votes out of the first two nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, which appear to be buoying him here. The latest polls show Sanders with a substantial lead in the Silver State, between seven and 15 points ahead of his next closest competitor.

Where Sanders’ campaign was scrappy and grassroots in 2016, this time around the Vermont senator hired a team of experienced political operatives who know the state well and have been able to harness the grassroots energy that was behind him four years ago. He also has, by far, the largest staff in the state with 250 people on the ground ahead of the caucus, which has allowed the campaign to knock half a million doors in advance of Caucus Day.

But as his frontrunner status has solidified, he has become even more of a target, particularly for moderate Democrats who view him as too far left to be electable. It was a point that he confronted head on during a get out the caucus rally with more than 2,000 of his supporters at Springs Preserve Friday night.

“I think the American people understand that, yeah, we disagree on issues, that’s called democracy. We disagree on issues,” Sanders said. “We cannot disagree that the president of the United States is simply not the kind of man that we need to have in the White House.”

Nevada had, at one point this cycle, appeared to be the place where Sanders’ presidential aspirations might have ended, after he suffered a heart attack here in October. Now, the state seems poised to formally cement Sanders as the frontrunner in the race and create substantial momentum heading into South Carolina’s primary next week and the Super Tuesday contests just days later.

Sanders also doesn’t appear, based on the few available polls, to have been significantly wounded by a dustup with the politically powerful Culinary Union, which represents about 60,000 hotel workers across the state. The union has been circulating a flyer saying that Sanders, if elected president, would “end” their much-loved health insurance plans.

In fact, Sanders appears so assured of a victory in Nevada that he spent Friday morning campaigning in California and isn’t sticking around for a victory party on Saturday. Instead, he’ll be campaigning in El Paso, Texas.

As far as who is likely to take second — or third or fourth or fifth place — on Saturday, the picture is far less clear. Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, California billionaire Tom Steyer and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar all have polling averages hovering in the 10 to 17 percent range, with Biden, perhaps, slightly ahead.

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event inside the Hyde Park Middle School gym in Las Vegas on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

And Biden is the one who, arguably, needs a victory in Nevada the most. After coming in fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire, the former vice president blamed his losses on the lack of diversity in the first two nominating states. If he loses in Nevada, and is unable to retain the support he has within communities of color in the state, it will be hard for him to continue to make the argument that he’s the candidate best equipped to energize the Democratic Party to defeat President Donald Trump come November.

Biden, rallying supporters at Hyde Park Middle School in Las Vegas, framed the Saturday nominating contest as a fresh start for his campaign.

“It’s the beginning of a representation of what the country looks like,” he said. “I really mean it. It’s the first in the West, and it makes a great deal of difference.”

Then there’s Buttigieg, the candidate whose trajectory changed the most out of Iowa and New Hampshire. Over the last eight months, the former South Bend mayor has built a substantial operation here on the ground, with about 100 staffers ahead of the caucus, and slowly caught on, attracting hundreds and then more than a thousand people to his rallies. But that support hasn’t, until recently, translated into the polls.

Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at a rally at Faiss Middle School on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. (Jana Sayson/The Nevada Independent)

His campaign is now banking on the momentum he has coming out of the first two nominating contests, where he nipped at Sanders heels on the popular vote and actually emerged one national delegate ahead, coupled with the organization they have built to carry them to another success here.

“There are a lot of Americans who look at the campaign and see they’re supposed to choose between a revolution or keeping the status quo, and don’t see where they fit in that picture,” Buttigieg told a crowd of about 1,200 who showed up at Faiss Middle School for a final rally. “We’ve got to build a picture of belonging that lets everybody who wants to see change stand side-by-side, even if they don’t agree 100 percent of the time.”

But Nevada is not Iowa and it is not New Hampshire. Roughly 30 percent of the state’s population is Latino, 10 percent is Asian American and Pacific Islander, and another 10 percent black. And it’s unclear to what extent Buttigieg has been able to make inroads with voters of color here.

He spent a brief bit of time canvassing on Friday with prominent DREAMer Astrid Silva, who had put out a call on Twitter for presidential canvass with her in her neighborhood “at unvetted doors.”

Gina Barrios, one of the people Buttigieg talked to while canvassing, said she knew of the former South Bend mayor from his TV commercials and appreciated his efforts to get to know the Latino community. In addition to a significant English-language buy, the campaign has been running Spanish-language ads, narrated by Buttigieg himself, since December.

“We’re trying to ensure that everything is for the good of this country,” Barrios said. “May the best person win and may God help them.”

Supporters cheer while Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks at CSN's Henderson campus on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Warren also has a shot at scooping up some additional delegates out of Nevada’s caucus, though it’s unclear to what extent her strong debate performance this week will provide a boost for her heading into Saturday after middling performances in Iowa and New Hampshire. After trying to position herself as the unity candidate in the race, Warren has changed her tack and gone on the offensive in the days leading up to Nevada’s caucus.

“When other people who are running for president — and I say this just as a factual statement — like Bernie, who say they want to make real change but they will not roll back the filibuster, keep in mind what that means,” she told about 500 supporters at the Clark County Government amphitheater. “They have given a veto to the gun industry to prevent real change and gun reform.”

Warren’s team landed earliest on the ground Nevada, though the team of about 50 staffers has since been surpassed in size several times over by some of the other campaigns.

Democratic presidential hopeful Tom Steyer as seen during a tour of the Culinary Health Center in Las Vegas on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

California billionaire Tom Steyer, too, is banking on Nevada to elevate his position in the race by appealing to a diverse group of Democratic voters after barely registering any sport in the first two contests. Intrigued by his millions of dollars in ads, many Nevadans have taken a closer look at Steyer over the last couple of months and quickly became a top choice for many with his more moderate positions on some things, such as health care, and more aggressive ones on others, including term limits and climate change.

“This is the first place that you can claim that you pulled together the diverse coalition that is the Democratic Party,” Steyer told his supporters who had gathered at an event space nestled between the Las Vegas Strip and downtown Las Vegas. “So if we come through tomorrow, that is going to be a statement to the entire nation, and the world about what it means to pull the Democratic Party together, and to go from there, and win.”

Klobuchar, after a surprising third-place victory in New Hampshire, has sought to maintain her momentum coming into Nevada. But she has had a hurdle to overcome that the other candidates don’t — the fact that her staff just landed on the ground in the Silver State in November and only recently ballooned to 50. She spent her final day in the state campaigning in Reno and the not-often-visited Elko, positioning herself as someone who can appeal to urban and rural America alike.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar campaigns at the Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows, William N. Pennington facility on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, in Reno. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

"I am someone that always believed that you don't just go to one part of a state — or even the big cities — that you go everywhere," Klobuchar told supporters at the Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows.

But the overarching question in all of this is whether the caucus will actually work. The Nevada State Democratic Party undertook a major overhaul of the caucus process in the wake of Iowa’s failed contest, scrapping two apps it had planned to use and replacing them with a simpler, though more labor-intensive Google Forms-based calculator. The mechanism is responsible for folding in 75,000 early voters’ presidential preferences at their home precinct, just as if they had been there to participate in person on Caucus Day.

But one Democratic campaign aide said that as of 11 p.m. Friday the campaign had not yet received a batch of promised data with the names of the roughly 39,000 people who cast their votes on the fourth and final day, Tuesday, of the early voting period. Campaigns, in general, have been using the data received from the party from the first three days of early voting to narrow their voter contact efforts to just those people who haven’t yet voted.

The fact that campaigns had not yet received the data as of late Friday night suggests that the party has not yet finished processing the tens of thousands of early votes, which all must be completed before the caucus begins at noon on Saturday.

Then there are the broader concerns about whether the party’s roughly 3,000 volunteers have been adequately trained on the new protocol. One volunteer, Chris Erbe, attended an in-person training on Friday expecting to be able to have a hands-on demonstration with the party-purchased iPads precinct chairs are supposed to use to access the Google Forms-based caucus calculator, but said that didn’t happen.

“I did not even need to come to this training,” Erbe said.

But Erbe said that he thought the caucus would go okay if precinct chairs are able to use the calculator as promised — “if” being the operative word.

Jackie Valley, Jacob Solis, Michelle Rindels, Luz Gray, Shannon Miller, Kristyn Leonard and Daniel Rothberg contributed to this report.

2020 hopefuls make final pitch to voters ahead of Saturday’s caucus

After a frantic two-week rush, Democratic presidential hopefuls fanned out across Nevada to hold events and campaign rallies in a final push before the state’s presidential caucus on Saturday.

Friday saw not only a major campaign rally in Las Vegas by President Donald Trump, but also five major Democratic presidential hopefuls crisscrossing Las Vegas making their final pitch to voters and win momentum in the state’s presidential caucus. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar was the lone candidate to make her closing argument in Elko and Reno.

Some candidates, like former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and California billionaire Tom Steyer, packed their Friday schedule with a hectic mix of meet-and-greets, round tables and conversations with voters. Other candidates, such as presumed front-runner Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, only scheduled one major public campaign event before Saturday.

Some 75,000 caucusgoers already voted early over a four-day period this week, putting immense pressure on the Nevada State Democratic Party to process the ballots and avoid a chaotic caucus process that befell Iowa Democrats in that state’s caucus process earlier this month.

Here’s how each candidate made their pitch to voters on Friday:

Coming off the Nevada debate, Warren keeps punching up

Supporters cheer while Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks at CSN's Henderson campus on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Under the shadow of a 25-foot tall Bailey, a giant replica of Elizabeth Warren’s golden retriever, a lively crowd of more than 500 rallied around the Massachusetts senator at the Clark County Government Center amphitheater.

While waiting for the senator to speak, kids played with hula-hoops and some attendees sat on picnic blankets on the grass as they enjoyed food truck grub. Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro introduced Warren before she walked on stage to mass cheers.

“You want to understand, every time someone tells you a woman can’t beat Donald Trump, well I don’t know about [any] woman but I’ll tell you Elizabeth Warren can beat Donald Trump!” Warren said to a crescendo of applause.

“And if anyone doubts whether I can beat him on a debate stage, I think we have the video from Wednesday — I’m ready for that man! … I think there’s a 50-50 chance that Donald Trump looks at debating me and doesn’t even show up.”

The evening was punctuated with jabs at her opponents, starting with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. A young audience member, Jacob, asked Warren what her plan was for gun violence despite a divided Congress. 

“When other people who are running for president — and I say this just as a factual statement — like Bernie, who say they want to make real change but they will not roll back the filibuster, keep in mind that means. They have given a veto to the gun industry to prevent real change and gun reform,” Warren said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders has said that he does not support ending the filibuster, a maneuver that he has used in the past. In 2010, Sanders gave an eight-and-a-half hour speech before the Senate denouncing what he called a regressive tax bill.

Warren said rolling back the filibuster would be key to addressing gun violence in the U.S. and added that Democrats “have to win not just the White House.” 

“We’ve got to win the Senate and put (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell out of a job,” she said. 

Warren also called out Michael Bloomberg, whom she particularly went after on Wednesday night for his trail of nondisclosure agreements with women who have brought harassment and misconduct claims against the former New York mayor. 

Echoing what she said during Wednesday night’s debate, Warren called Bloomberg out for blaming the 2008 mortgage crisis on redlining policies by banks.

“When Michael Bloomberg was busy blaming the crash on African Americans and Latino families who tried to buy homes, I was right here in Clark County holding hearings,” she said. 

Warren was referring to a hearing held by the congressional oversight panel that the former Democratic majority leader, Sen. Harry Reid appointed her to chair. The hearing was held in Las Vegas in 2008. 

“We thought we’d just have a few witnesses come in, but people packed this auditorium we were in, they lined up outside, they wanted to be able to tell their stories. They desperately wanted a government that would be on their side.”

Shannon Miller

At Las Vegas rally, Tom Steyer says he needs Nevada to make sure there are “No Scrubs” in the White House

Democratic presidential hopeful Tom Steyer takes a photo with staff at the Culinary Health Center in Las Vegas on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Tom Steyer held his “Battle Ready” rally in Las Vegas Friday, the night before the Nevada caucus, and the non-traditional candidate was introduced by some non-traditional guests —  America’s Next Top Model alum Bianca Chardei and iconic ‘90s girl group TLC. 

Steyer took the opportunity to go after Trump, encourage his supporters to be “aggressive” at the Saturday caucus, and emphasize the importance of Nevada to the future of his campaign.

“This is the first place that you can claim that you pulled together the diverse coalition that is the Democratic Party, so if we come through tomorrow, that is going to be a statement to the entire nation, and the world about what it means to pull the Democratic Party together, and to go from there, and win,” he said. 

Lynn Arce chose Steyer as her top candidate when she cast her ballot during early voting. Friday was the first time she had seen the candidate in person, and she was not disappointed. 

“I loved it. I loved it…. The fact that his family's involved and everyone's just really into it. They've got this energy about them. I thought it was fantastic,” she said. 

Democratic presidential hopeful Tom Steyer as seen during a tour of the Culinary Health Center in Las Vegas on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Pamela Thompson plans to caucus Saturday and says that right now, Steyer is her first choice. She came to the event tonight partially because of her young daughter.

“I just found out, and she loves Tom, because they show commercials all the time, and we just like him so we wanted to show our support,” she said.

When the candidate left the stage to take selfies with his supporters, Swedish electropop duo Icona Pop took over, blasting remixes of “Jolene” and “When Doves Cry.” Before the music started, Steyer made a prediction:

“If we win tomorrow, we’re going to win the whole goddamn thing.”

—Kristyn Leonard

Biden touts unions and diversity, slams Trump during his caucus eve rally

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event inside the Hyde Park Middle School gym in Las Vegas on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Former Vice President Joe Biden made his final pitch to Nevada voters Friday evening inside a Las Vegas middle school, where he touted the importance of unions and diversity while blasting President Donald Trump.

After coming off losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, Biden framed the Nevada caucus as a fresh start.

“It’s the beginning of a representation of what the country looks like,” he said. “I really mean it. It’s the first in the West, and it makes a great deal of difference.”

In a 30-minute speech, Biden vowed to bring back the middle class, strengthen unions, end legal protections for gun manufacturers and give Americans a public option for their health care — or as he put it, “Medicare if you want it.”

He also lit into Trump for downplaying Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election and the current Democratic presidential nominating contests. 

“Give me a break,” Biden said. “You can’t be that stupid.”

Turning toward his challengers in the Democratic primary field, Biden essentially accused former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg of false advertising, given his commercials that prominently feature former President Barack Obama, who hasn’t endorsed anyone. 

“Michael Bloomberg — his new best friend,” he said. “You look at that ad and you think, ‘God Barack must have endorsed him, man.’”

A protester interrupted his speech at one point, prompting his supporters to try to drown the man out with chants of “Joe! Joe! Joe!”

Biden interjected, saying “That’s okay. It’s not a Trump rally.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden takes a photo with a supporter after a campaign event inside the Hyde Park Middle School gym in Las Vegas on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Ultimately, police led the man out after he continued advancing toward the stage. 

Biden ended his speech by talking about Americans who face hardships every day, yet still put one foot in front of the other the next morning. In doing so, he touched on his own grief — the deaths of his first wife, daughter and son — and the help he received before bringing it full circle back to his race for the presidency.

“Folks, I refuse, I refuse, I absolutely refuse to give up,” he said. “I refuse to keep this guy in the White House. We have to change this.”

His audience for the caucus eve rally included people who were voting for him in Nevada as well as those supporting him from other parts of the country.

Frank Deer — a pharmacist in town from Union, New Jersey — attended Biden’s rally Friday night, taking in the action of an early-nominating state. The 43-year-old said Biden’s character and experience as vice president in the Obama administration appeal to him. 

“I think Joe will continue with equal life and justice for everyone,” he said.

The 43-year-old immigrated to the United States as a teen from Jamaica, following his mother, who worked as a maid, among other jobs, to gradually bring her seven children here. Deer said he’d vote for anyone but Trump, whose harsh language and policies toward immigration bother him.

Asked about Biden’s chances winning the Democratic nomination, though, he paused. 

“That’s my concern,” he said. “The fear is we may have the wrong person up against Trump.”

But Nick Bonsanto and his wife, Michelle, plan to caucus for Biden in their North Las Vegas precinct. The couple abandoned the Republican Party immediately after Trump won the nomination in 2016 and registered as Democrats.

Bonsanto, who said he likes Biden’s “crossover ability” to mend bridges, predicts he will fare better in a more diverse state like Nevada.

“I think he will be the adult in the room,” he said. “We need someone with experience.”

— Jackie Valley

Buttigieg makes the electability pitch one last time in Las Vegas rally

Supporters of Mayor Pete Buttigieg listen as he addresses the crowd at a get-out-to-caucus rally at Faiss Middle School in Las Vegas on the eve of the Nevada Caucus. (Jana Sayson/The Nevada Independent)

Nearly 1,200 waited patiently in the chilly evening air for a final get-out-the-caucus rally for former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the southwest valley Friday night, with a line stretching fully around two sides of Faiss Middle School and overflow parking spreading into a nearby park. 

In his last pitch to supporters before the Saturday caucus, Buttigieg honed his message on electability, casting himself as the only candidate in a still-broad Democratic field that “has to get this right” in order to defeat President Donald Trump come November. 

“There are a lot of Americans who look at the campaign and see they’re supposed to choose between a revolution or keeping the status quo, and don’t see where they fit in that picture,” Buttigieg said. “We’ve got to build a picture of belonging that lets everybody who wants to see change stand side-by-side, even if they don’t agree 100 percent of the time.”

Supporters of Mayor Pete Buttigieg listen as he addresses the crowd at a get-out-to-caucus rally at Faiss Middle School in Las Vegas on the eve of the Nevada Caucus. (Jana Sayson/The Nevada Independent)

Much of the crowd were the Mayor Pete faithful, toting signs and cheering along with chants of “Boot-edge-edge” and “We want Pete.” That included a first-time voter, 18-year-old Angelina Misch, who planned on caucusing for Buttigieg tomorrow morning and was drawn to him, in part, because her teacher was, too. 

“It’s a lot, especially for us, being young and with so many ways you could go,” she said. “[This election] was super hard, you had to do your research.”

But at least one rally attendee, Cynthia Reyes, told The Nevada Independent that she had already caucused for another candidate, Joe Biden.

“If Biden doesn’t get through, then Pete’s definitely my man,” Reyes said. “He sounds like a normal person who’s really going to help solve our problems.” 

— Jacob Solis

At Reno event, Klobuchar says "this is a national campaign," stresses rural outreach

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaks with supporters at her final rally in Reno before Nevada's presidential caucus on Feb. 21, 2019. (David Calvert / The Nevada Independent)

During an appearance at the Boys and Girls Club of Truckee Meadows, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar told Northern Nevada supporters that her campaign was "feeling good." 

Coming off a campaign stop in Elko Friday afternoon, Klobuchar said that her organization tried to target both rural and urban voters, highlighting prior campaign stops in Fallon and Lovelock. Because of how delegates are apportioned to precincts, Klobuchar could pick up several delegates in rural areas if she performs well in the state’s 2nd and 4th Congressional Districts, which include many of the state’s rural communities.

"I am someone that always believed that you don't just go to one part of a state — or even the big cities — that you go everywhere," Klobuchar said. 

The Minnesota senator pitched herself as someone who could unite Democrats and bring more voters into the fold in the general election. She conceded she has more moderate positions on issues like universal healthcare and free college tuition compared to many of her progressive colleagues. Instead, she stressed her support for a government-run public health insurance option that would add onto the Affordable Care Act. On education, Klobuchar voiced support for a significant investment in K-12 education.

Klobuchar also touted her work with progressives in her party and Republican senators.

"I find that common ground," she said.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaks with supporters at her final rally in Reno before Nevada's presidential caucus on Feb. 21, 2019. (David Calvert / The Nevada Independent)

At the rally, Klobuchar cast herself as an antidote to President Donald Trump. She said she was concerned about Trump's lies and reports that Russia is trying to influence the election.

"We need to bring decency back to the White House," she said.

In Colorado yesterday, Trump mocked Klobuchar's debate performance, saying she "choked."

When she heard Trump's comments, Klobuchar joked that her reaction was: "I guess I have finally arrived." Klobuchar, who is polling toward the bottom of the pack in Nevada, higlighted recent newspaper endorsements from The San Francisco Chronicle and The Seattle Times, saying that "this is a national campaign."

"Every race I was in," Klobuchar said, "people were always counting me out."

— Daniel Rothberg 

Out-of-state volunteers swept up in Bernie fervor in final pre-caucus canvassing

Supporters listen presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speak during a rally at the Springs Preserve on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

At Bernie Sanders’ East Las Vegas headquarters on Friday afternoon, things sounded more like revival than campaign rally.

Nina Turner, a former Ohio lawmaker and Sanders surrogate, spoke in almost messianic terms about the Vermont senator to a group of 60 or so volunteers who had come to knock doors in a heavily Hispanic neighborhood. Sanders leads in recent polls, but that didn’t dissuade members of National Nurses United and a group of youth from Arizona from giving up their afternoon to rouse voters on his behalf.

“If you were stranded in the ocean, who would you want to come save you?” Turner asked. “The person who got to decide whether or not you deserve to be saved? The person that is going to half-measure, give you a raft? Or somebody that's going to radically come to your rescue?”

After more than a half hour of fiery speeches in which speakers characterized Sanders’ campaign as a movement of unprecedented magnitude, the volunteers, many wearing bright red shirts, were debriefed on what to say when they knocked on the doors of a list of Sanders-sympathetic voters. Don’t spend too much time getting wrapped up in conversation, they said. Share your personal story about what converted you to Sanders, they added.

Luis Vasquez, the 22-year-old regional field director who oversees operations in East Las Vegas and occasionally danced around the office to the upbeat Spanish soundtrack, explained what he believes is behind Sanders’ rising prospects.

“I think a change of mind has happened since 2016. We've had a lot of trauma. President Trump has [given us] a lot of trauma and the working class has been the brunt of that,” he said. “They can't handle ... a slight change and fix it slowly. They need an instant change, an instant fix. They need something that is radical, that is quick, and that will immediately start getting people back to where they were.”

One of the biggest themes in the pitch for Sanders, that Vasquez believes is behind so many in his territory backing the candidate, is his consistency.

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally at the Springs Preserve on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

“We're able to inform people that yes, this isn't just a flavor of the month,” Vasquez said. “He's been doing this year after year ... since the 1980s. Talking about the issues that you care so much about.”

Sanders’ consistent support for nurses was what drew nurse Luis Vargas from California to Las Vegas to knock doors for him.

“Bernie works with us,” said Vargas, who’s originally from Mexico. “He knows what we need and what we want.”

Retired nurse Malinda Markowitz, 69, left the mini-rally even more convinced that Sanders will be the next president because of the diversity of the group that had gathered to lift him up.

“The Band-Aid effect has never worked,” she said. “You talk to people, they know the only true person that's going to make a difference and get us out of the situation that we're in is Bernie Sanders. You know, he gives the hope for the average worker.”

— Michelle Rindels and Luz Gray

Buttigieg canvasses East Las Vegas neighborhood with immigrant activist Astrid Silva

Pete Buttigieg and Astrid Silva canvass in East Las Vegas on Feb. 21, 2020. Photo by Michelle Rindels.

Prominent DREAMer Astrid Silva — whose advice is much coveted by politicians seeking to win over Latino voters in Nevada — tweeted a few weeks back that she would be impressed if someone came to her neighborhood and campaigned at homes that hadn’t been pre-screened.

The one candidate to take her up on the challenge? Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

In the middle of the day on Friday, with a gaggle of reporters not far behind, Buttigieg made good on that promise, meeting up with Silva in an East Las Vegas neighborhood to knock some doors.

Nobody was home in the first two, but Kit Herron, 71, and her dog, Mickey, came to the door at the third house. Turns out, she’s a supporter of President Donald Trump and still plans to vote for the incumbent even after meeting the Democratic candidate, who often talks of reaching out to “future former Republicans.”

“I'm just tired of the bickering in our government,” Herron told The Nevada Independent through tears after the encounter. “Granted, he's a loose cannon. He's got a terrible mouth, you know, but I think he's done a good job with what he's had to do.”

The whole campaign stop lasted about 15 minutes, and Buttigieg was later whisked away in a black SUV to a roundtable on environmental issues elsewhere in Las Vegas. Herron, a former flight attendant, turned back to raking leaves in her front yard.

“He presents himself well,” she said of Buttigieg. “If I was probably going to vote for somebody Democratic, I would vote for him.”

As for Silva? She’s not endorsing Buttigieg, saying instead that her support is behind her community. But afterward, she told reporters she was grateful for the stop, quick as it may have been. 

“Right now is a really scary time to exist and so I appreciate that he took the time to come out here and see what’s actually happening in our streets,” said Silva, who pointed to a looming Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that could have life-altering consequences for her and other DREAMers.

Gina Barrios was one of the people Buttigieg encountered in the neighborhood, as she was leaving to go to the grocery store to buy chicken. She took the opportunity to share with him issues she wants politicians to address, including an increase in homelessness in the area.

“No one has ever come around here,” Barrios said in Spanish of the neighborhood where she’s lived for several years. “I told him that I was happy that he came, so he could see how we are and how we live.”

Barrios, who knew of Buttigieg from his TV commercials, added that she appreciated the efforts he made to communicate with Latinos and get to know their needs. 

“We’re trying to ensure that everything is for the good of this country,” she said. “May the best person win and may God help them.”

Antonio Zaragoza, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1999, didn’t get a visit from Buttigieg but came out to see what was going on in the street. He said he participated for the first time in Nevada’s caucus, voting early for Buttigieg, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden.

“It’s good that they go house to house to see what everyone’s needs are,” said Zaragoza, 69, who works as a dishwasher at the Circus Circus. “No other candidate has done that.”

But he’s skeptical that the outreach to the Latino community will be permanent.

“They need our vote, but once they get the job, it’s like they forget about Latinos,” he said in Spanish. “They push us to the side.”

— Michelle Rindels and Luz Gray

Democratic presidential contenders join Culinary Union picket line at Palms casino

Joe Biden

In a sometimes-chaotic scene this morning, five of the seven leading Democratic presidential candidates joined a picket line of hundreds of members from a handful of Las Vegas casino worker unions hours before tonight’s Democratic presidential debate.

The Palms Casino Resort, owned by Station Casinos, has long rebuffed unionization and counterprogrammed Wednesday’s picketing with a marquee boasting messages such as “free healthcare for the whole family” and “company paid retirement plan.”

Station Casinos is owned by Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta — financial supporters of President Donald Trump and other Republican causes — and have long tangled with the state’s culinary workers union. The union says that Station Casino employees have voted in three National Labor Relations elections to join the union.

In a statement released after the picket, Station Casinos announced it would offer an “enhanced benefits package,” including a free health care plan to employees making less than $41,600 or $20 per hour, as part of its “Family Focused” initiative.

The notable exception to the presidential procession was newly-minted frontrunner Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose single-payer-style Medicare for all plan has drawn sharp criticism from the Culinary Union with just days remaining before Nevada’s presidential caucuses this Saturday. 

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren walks the Culinary Worker Union Local 226 picket line in front of the Palms hotel/casino on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

First to arrive was Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who made several loops along the picket lines, at one time hoisting a Culinary Union sign emblazoned with the words “No Contract, No Peace.”

Upon her arrival, Warren — like the rest of the presidential hopefuls who would arrive throughout the morning — was swarmed by more than two dozen members of the press, who jockeyed for a spot to walk alongside the senator and often squeezed or stalled the progress of the picket line itself. 

That process repeated itself upon the arrival of former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and California billionaire Tom Steyer, each of whom walked alongside the picket line for 10 to 15 minutes before making their exits. 

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar walks the Culinary Worker Union Local 226 picket line in front of the Palms hotel/casino on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Among the five candidates who joined the picket, only former Vice President Biden took a brief detour from the proceedings to speak to the assembled press — and take aim at billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who has surged in recent polls and at the last minute qualified for Wednesday night’s debate in Las Vegas. 

“Well I’ll tell you what, I’m just going to tell the truth,” Biden said. “Truth is [Bloomberg’s] been a Republican his whole life. The fact of the matter is he didn’t endorse Barack [Obama] or me when we ran. This is a guy using Barack’s pictures like they’re buddies. I’m going to talk about his record.”

Biden’s comments refer to a number of advertisements from Bloomberg that have used images of Obama in effort to tie the popular ex-president to his insurgent bid for the Democratic nomination. 

Updated, 2:30 p.m. - This story was updated to include a statement from Station Casinos on its newly-announced health care plan.

Domestic workers capture presidential candidates' attention during a Las Vegas forum

Aleja Plaza, a domestic worker in Los Angeles, spends her overnight hours caring for a 98-year-old woman five days a week. Three days a week, she spends eight daytime hours caring for a 100-year-old woman. And between those two jobs, she’s on call to assist an 89-year-old man.

The 60-year-old said she “takes naps” around those work obligations, shrugging off the demands of the job as a necessity.

“Rent in California is very expensive, and I have to send money for my mom who is aging,” said Plaza, whose mother lives in the Philippines. “I have to support myself here so I won’t become homeless or be dependent (on) the government.”

So sitting for a few hours Tuesday morning inside an MGM Grand ballroom was a rare treat for Plaza, but it wasn’t a vacation: She’s volunteering with Care in Action, an advocacy group for the more than 2 million domestic workers in the United States who largely work and live in the shadows as housekeepers, elder care workers or nannies. 

But in an election cycle dominated by diverse issues — health care, education, immigration and the economy — about 1,000 domestic workers, including 30 from Nevada, got the full attention of three Democratic presidential candidates Tuesday morning. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Tom Steyer, a California billionaire and activist, spoke in person at a Care in Action forum, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders attended via phone.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential hopeful, waves to the crowd at the Care in Action forum at MGM Grand on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. (Jackie Valley/The Nevada Independent)

The advocacy organization has been tracking where candidates stand on issues such as universal childcare, paid leave, Medicare for all or long-term care, increasing the minimum wage and the federal Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, which would provide protections for employees in the care sector.

Warren, Sanders and Steyer — who are four days out from Nevada’s presidential caucus — made their case for how they’d help domestic workers on those issues and more. 

Warren, for instance, took a minute to decry the filibuster — a Senate rule that effectively prevents votes or action on legislation unless there are at least 60 votes in favor — while answering a question about immigration reform. The senator said, “it is time to roll back the filibuster,” framing that move as key to accomplishing comprehensive immigration reform.

“If we do that, the whole calculation around immigration changes,” she said. “All we need are 50 votes — 50 because we can use the vice president to break a tie.”

Steyer, meanwhile, railed on Trump for creating a “Mar-a-Lago society” that benefits the wealthy but doesn’t help people who aren’t part of the establishment. The comment was a shot at the president’s famous estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

“Change is due and now is the time,” he said. “I really applaud and support everything that you’re doing because there is deep injustice in this system, and you are being exploited and I am with you in stopping the exploitation and getting your rights recognized broadly in society.”

Tom Steyer, a California billionaire and activist who's running for president, speaks at the Care in Action forum at the MGM Grand on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. (Jackie Valley/The Nevada Independent)

Sanders, the final speaker, addressed the intersection of immigration and domestic workers’ rights, saying they’re not mutually exclusive.

“That dignity and respect must come forward regardless of their immigration status among other things,” he said, eliciting applause. “That means we will make it easier for domestic workers to join unions and bargain collectively for higher wages and good benefits.”

Plaza, who moved to the United States six years ago from the Philippines, is canvassing as a Care in Action volunteer Tuesday afternoon to encourage Nevada residents to vote in the caucus. She hopes the forum and candidate visits will shed more light on the plight of domestic workers.

“We work in the privacy of homes,” she said. “Nobody sees us.”

Pamela Davis, another domestic worker seated at Plaza’s table, plans to vote in California’s Democratic primary election March 3. The 59-year-old from San Diego juggles substitute teaching and weekend domestic work for a wealthy family while caring for her elderly father with dementia.

She was still mulling the three candidates’ answers Tuesday morning.

“As a teacher, as a woman, as a single mother, I’m leaning toward Elizabeth, but I haven’t decided,” she said. “I love Bernie. I was impressed by Tom.”

Care in Action also hasn’t decided whether it will endorse a particular Democratic presidential candidate. The organization’s endorsement process will involve domestic worker input, a candidate questionnaire and issue research, and an evaluation of political conditions.

Jess Morales Rocketto, executive director of Care in Action, said the organization hopes to make an endorsement decision — which could be no particular candidate endorsement at all — by March 1.

“This is an experience. This is the very first time that we’ve ever done this,” she said. “We’re going to learn a lot from this process and it might be a little bit messy because our democracy is a little bit messy.”

After starting early, strong in Nevada, Warren hopes for a comeback in the Silver State

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, speaking to a crowd of several hundred at the College of Southern Nevada’s Henderson campus Monday afternoon, began with a disclaimer.

“You can tell, I’m a little husky,” she said, the audience sympathetically laughing as her voice cracked. “I’m shaking off a cold, and I’m trying to do my best to save my voice.”

Still, she soldiered on — both with the town hall and her packed day of events in Las Vegas, which also included stops by SEIU Local 1107 and Cardenas Market — and, in some ways, she had to. After poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, where she came in third and fourth respectively, the Massachusetts senator is banking on a win in Nevada to reinvigorate her campaign ahead of South Carolina’s primary next week and Super Tuesday at the beginning of March.

A victory in the Silver State isn’t out of reach, either. Warren was the first Democratic presidential hopeful to visit the state as a declared candidate — Monday marked one year since her first Las Vegas rally — and she had the earliest and one of the strongest campaign operations on the ground, though she has since been surpassed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden in staff size. She has about 50 staffers in the ground ahead of the caucus, compared to about 250 for Sanders, 130 for Biden and 100 for Buttigieg.

And where she was flagging in the polls ahead of the contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, two recent Nevada polls show her in second and third place.

She also started running an ad this week featuring both President Barack Obama and former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid touting her work spearheading the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with the hope of boosting her profile in the Silver State.

“She had studied the financial world and had an insight into it that others didn’t have,” Reid says in the ad. “When she talks, people listen.”

If the Henderson town hall was any indication, she’s not giving up yet.

“A lot of people in this country are afraid. They're afraid for their families. They're afraid for their neighbors,” she said, quietly but earnestly. “They're afraid for children, locked in cages at our border, they're afraid for children in lockdowns in our public schools, they are afraid for women, they are afraid for people of color, they're afraid for LGBTQ people, for trans people.”

“So this question that comes to you, Nevada — what do you do when people are afraid when the danger is real? Do we back off? Do we cower? Do we get timid?” she continued, pausing briefly as she drew closer to the microphone.

“Or do we fight back?” she boomed, emphasizing each word in as loud a voice as her laryngitis would allow her to muster, to enthusiastic applause from the crowd. “Fighting back is an act of patriotism.”

Supporters cheer while Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks at CSN's Henderson campus on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

And Warren supporters in Nevada don’t appear to be deterred by her middling performances Iowa and New Hampshire, where she captured 18 percent and 9.2 percent, respectively. The latter was a particularly significant blow to Warren’s campaign, given that she is from neighboring Massachusetts and expected to perform well in the Granite State.

But Kerstin Kramer, a 49-year-old educator from Reno, said that she’s not worried.

“I feel like the West is different than the East Coast and that was just the very beginning of caucusing and everything,” said Kramer, who attended Warren’s Reno rally with her husband on Sunday. “So as they said, 98 percent of the delegates are still available and so I feel like she still has a great chance.”

Lisa McAllister, an educator with the Rape Crisis Center, said Warren is “exactly where she should be.”

“I think she’s very well positioned. I think those early caucuses tend to be not reflective of the population as a whole so I’m very excited about where she is,” McAllister, 57, said at the SEIU 1107 event on Monday. “I think she’s in a prime spot. People are trying to write her off but there’s no way she’s ready to be written off.”

During the Henderson town hall, Warren continued to pitch herself as the unity candidate in the race. Her paid family leave policy, she told the crowd, was borrowed with permission from New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who dropped out of the Democratic presidential race in August.

“I gave her full credit for it ... and she said, ‘Let’s do it.’ Kamala Harris said the same thing. Same thing with Jay Inslee,” she said, referring to the California senator and Washington governor who both mounted presidential campaigns last year.

Another Democratic presidential hopeful, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, has been actively campaigning for her in Nevada and other states. And Warren noted that her campaign staffers and volunteers hail from other Democratic campaigns that have ended.

“This is how we build a Democratic Party and a coalition that works for all of us,” Warren said. “It’s to bring in the good ideas, to respect the good ideas.”

It’s something that voters are picking up on here on the ground in Nevada. Her supporters like that she’s progressive — but also not so far to the left that they feel like she will alienate more moderate voters in the way they believe Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, with his call for a political revolution and democratic socialism, might.

“The main reason that I'm a Warren supporter is because I believe she brings a stronger message of unity than some of the other candidates in the field do,” Amanda Meyers, 31, said at Warren’s Henderson town hall on Monday.

“But we still like her progressive stances,” her mother, Kathy Montague, 55, chimed in.

Both women, who caucused for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016, are leaning toward Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar as their second choice, should Warren not meet the viability threshold in Nevada’s caucus.

Brett Hagerty, 34, caucused for Sanders four years ago but will be supporting Warren this time around. She said that Warren is a capitalist — which she believes “works better within the system” — and is concerned that Sanders will be framed as a socialist “boogeyman.”

“I just think she's got a more palatable message and she's specifically thought about how she wants to do each thing,” said Hagerty, who was attending the town hall with her daughter Margot, 1.

Sparks resident Melanie Pearce, 49, came to Warren’s rally at Reno High School on Sunday undecided. She said she doesn’t want an “extreme” candidate like Sanders, and grouped Warren in with the moderate candidates in the race.

“My thing is electability,” she said.

Supporters cheer while Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks at CSN's Henderson campus on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

This is the lane Warren has steered herself into over the course of the race, somewhere between progressive and moderate. And it appears to have paid off in at least in one instance. The politically powerful Culinary Union has taken aim at Sanders over his Medicare-for-all plan, which they have said would “end” their existing union health care, but were gentler in their handling of Warren, who also supports the policy.

Warren, the union says, would merely “replace” Culinary health care after a three-year transition and “at end of collective bargaining agreements.” The Massachusetts senator has previously suggested that unions would come together around a table to “figure out how everybody gets fully compensated for what they have negotiated for” under her Medicare-for-all plan, which has a built-in transition period that, in the short term, includes the creation of a government-run public health insurance option.

“Then millions of people can try it. They can see what the health care is like,” Warren said, pitching her plan to SEIU Local 1107 members on Monday. “And then we vote on Medicare for all for everyone.” 

Theresa King, an eligibility specialist at University Medical Center, called Warren’s Medicare-for-all plan a “great idea” but still said she wants more details about how it will work in practice. 

“I think she has a plan to pay for it,” King said at SEIU. “Now, until you actually take the insurance, you won’t know how it works.”

Though Democrats head to the polls for a final day of early voting on Tuesday, it’s still hard to write anybody off at this point — especially when so many Nevada voters are still making up their minds.

Mahen Ranasinghe, 74, wasn’t planning on showing up to Warren’s Henderson rally on Monday, but he got an invitation from her campaign by text and figured, “Why not?”  Ranasinghe, a retired engineer, said that this will be the first election that he will participate in since moving to the United States in 2012, but he’s still deciding between three candidates.

“Sanders is very outspoken, and he seems to be honest in what he says, and Biden has the experience having been the vice president, and Warren also has experience and is fairly outspoken and I've listened to all three of them,” Ranasinghe said. “The others, I'm not that impressed. I haven't bothered much about them.”

Jackie Valley and Michelle Rindels contributed to this report.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren stands in a hallway before speaking at Mi Familia Vota's community event at Cardenas Market on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)