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In North Texas, Clinton and Sanders Campaigns Gear Up For Tuesday's Primary

Stella M. Chávez
Ramon Hernandez, a University of Texas at Arlington student, talks to other students about voting for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

On Tuesday, voters will cast ballots in Texas’ Democratic primary. The most recent polls show Hillary Clinton with a significant lead over opponent Bernie Sanders. That hasn’t stopped both groups from knocking on doors in North Texas and bringing out their party’s big brass to get voters to the polls.

On a recent morning at the University of Texas at Arlington, student volunteers passed out flyers about Bernie Sanders.

“Are you guys interested in politics?” Ramon Hernandez yelled out.

“I voted for the Bern last night,” said another student.

“You voted? Aw man, come here,” Hernandez said with a big smile.

Hernandez, 22, is a senior at UTA, studying political science. He founded the group Students for Bernie Sanders on campus. He interned in Washington, D.C., and says that experience sparked his interest in politics.

“I started thinking OK, 'Which candidate do I align myself the best with?’ Frankly, that was Bernie Sanders,” Hernandez said. “I said, ‘You know, I have to do something to help him out because this is a tough fight. I know what he’s trying to do and he’s running against major opponents. I need to do my part.’”

Hernandez said he likes Sanders because of his economic policies and plan to make college education free. Not everyone thinks that’s realistic, but the issue has attracted many younger voters to the campaign.

That appeal was obvious on Saturday when more than 7,000 mostly young people packed Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie to see Sanders.

People waved signs and did the wave. They chanted “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie …”

The crowd’s excitement matched Sanders’ rousing speech.

“You know, I get criticized for thinking too big, but I didn’t hear too many of the establishment people saying, ‘Hey, what’s going on? Trillions of dollars going from working families to the top one-tenth of one percent,’” Sanders told the crowd. “But somehow when you want to bring that money back to the working families of this country, that’s a terrible idea. I disagree.”

Kristi Larkin, who’s 48 and a teacher, was there. She said her daughters, ages 15 and 18, asked her if she would take them. Larkin voted for Sanders during early voting. She says if Clinton ends up getting the Democratic nomination, she may not vote for her.

“I don’t think she’s as honest and I just don’t agree with her views on some things, her values,” Larkin said.

Credit Stella M. Chávez / KERA News
Gloria Mays, a volunteer for the Hillary Clinton campaign, has been knocking on doors and talking to voters ahead of the March 1 primary.

It was a quieter scene in South Dallas as volunteers for the Hillary Clinton campaign have been busy going door-to-door.

Gloria Mays knocked on the door of a resident named Carlos, who tells her he just voted.

“Excellent! Could I ask who you voted?” she asked him.

He told her he voted for Clinton.

“Oh, thank you. Thank you,” Mays said with a big smile on her face.

Mays is a realtor in the area and this is her first time to work for a campaign. She said she follows politics in the news and couldn’t just sit on the sidelines.

“We talk about what we want for our country and we complain about it and I just thought, ‘You know what, if I just talk about it and complain about it and not do anything, it just really doesn’t matter what I think,'” Mays said. “At least, I know that I’m forth an effort. ”

Polls indicate Clinton is expected to do well with minority voters in Texas. Dallas voter Sandra Davis is African-American and a longtime Clinton supporter.

“I would love Hillary to win because I feel like she deserve it,” Davis said. “She’s been in politics for how long? And look, President Obama appointed her and look what she’s done. So why not? Let her do her history. She knows what she’s doing.”

Despite strong support from black and Latino voters, the campaign isn’t taking any chances. Last week, Hillary’s husband and former president Bill Clinton flew in for a rally at Paul Quinn College, a historically black college in South Dallas.

Rather than dig into Sanders, he blasted another opponent – Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.

“It’s all about blame,” Clinton told the audience. “One of them wants to build a wall. Hillary says I want to build ladders of opportunities and tear down barriers so we can all be whole again."

On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will know just how well they were at building ladders of support – and getting the votes – they needed to move ahead.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.